Are Miniature Portraits Really Done on Pure Mammoth Ivory Sheets?

Though ivory has been a preferred material for hand-painted miniature portraits since the late 1700s, even today there is a demand for thin sheets of ivory.  The first time ivory sheets were used in place of vellum as material for hand painted miniatures was done by R. Carriera, a Venetian artist.

Initial sheets had the saw marks but within a few years, the process of cutting thinner sheets by scraping ended the marks of the saw. The surface was then fine tuned with the use of abrasive as ‘tooth’ was needed by the artists. Another degreasing process was used to make it more versatile for hand paintings. Originally, ivory was treated with vinegar and garlic, but later more sophisticated products were used.

Though elephant ivory was used in the 1700s through the early 20th century, in 1977 the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Animals banned elephant slaughter and later trade and use of elephant ivory was made illegal.

Mammoth ivory has filled in the gap that was created by the ban on elephant ivory. Buried under the permafrost in Arctic regions, the bones and tusks have been found and as these ivory tusks are quite similar to those of elephant ivory, it became a favored material for artists. Ivory is cut into manageable pieces and outer surface is removed before the sheets are cut or odd pieces are cut. Fine sheets are carved for artists to continue hand painting the delicate portraits, scenic beauty and other floral patterns. Check out some of the mammoth ivory art products at http://www.mammothivory.info

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How can I care for mammoth ivory artifacts?

This is one of the most common queries that we receive is about caring for your mammoth ivory sculptures, tusks and other items crafted from mammoth tusk ivory. You invest in antique ivory or any other ivory, one of the most difficult tasks is to constantly maintain humidity and temperature as it is prone to cracks and turns brittle if left in extremely dry weather conditions.

Mammoth tusks are sourced from the tundra permafrost, where the fossil ivory has lain buried for over 10,000 years, in the Russian, Siberian and Alaskan regions. Due to constant cold temperature, it has been able to retain the original moisture. That is why it is essential to have higher humidity and temperature control, when showcasing genuine mammoth ivory. That is why it is important that you rub the ivory sculpture with mineral oil every few months to make sure that the moisture is not depleted. You can use Renaissance wax to polish it and restore the protective luster. But some of the preventive measures that you need to take for maintaining ivory in its pristine condition is not to mark it or put any type of ink on it.

Putting water on ivory can damage it so ensure that the ivory is prevented from being wet. As the structure of mammoth ivory is close to being fossilized to an extent, do not put it in direct sunlight  or in extreme cold, as it will erode the inherent moisture and make it brittle. We recommend not to put ivory through temperature and moisture fluctuations as mammoth ivory is a precious commodity and can crack due to the variability. To see some astounding collection of mammoth ivory art and artifacts, check out http://www.mammothivory.info/

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