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How to Identify Antique Ivory

Authenticating your antique ivory also helps you know how much to insure it for.
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If you have a piece of ivory in your house -- such as a piece of jewelry or a statue -- you might want to identify its authenticity. This ensures that the piece is not made of ivory imitations such as plastic or bone.

Look for discoloration. Antique ivory yellows or browns with age unless it has been restored. Bright and white ivory might be new or an imitation.

Look at the grain lines on the ivory under a magnifying glass. If the lines do not exist, your ivory might be an imitation.


Put on a pair of insulated gloves . Heat a pin over a lighter until it is hot enough to melt plastic. Do not touch the heated end of the pin. Hold the pin against the bottom of the ivory. A heated pin melts imitation ivory and leaves an indent.


Look for materials that did not exist at the time your ivory was carved. Materials such as plastic-based glue on a purported antique might indicate a forgery or reproduction.


Things You'll Need:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Strong light source
  • Lighter
  • Needle
  • Insulated gloves


  • Avoid buying new ivory harvested from endangered species. Such purchases might violate state or federal laws.
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