Canadian Ivory Inc.

Walrus and Narwhal Tusks

Index - Material For Sale

bulletWalrus Tusk
bulletNarwhal Tusk
bulletMuskox Horn
bulletPolar Bear
bulletWhale Baleen
bulletEstate Purchases
bulletSperm Whale Teeth
bulletPre-ban Elephant Tusk
bulletMammoth Tusk
bulletIvory Art
bulletWorking with Ivory
bulletRegulations
bulletContact Us
bulletLinks

What we offer for sale

We specialize in ivory material from the Canadian arctic, but will carry other related materials as they are available. Canadian walrus and narwhal ivory is available for sale as whole tusks or pieces of varying sizes and shapes.

Whether for the collector or for further manufacture,we offer narwhal tusk, walrus tusk, walrus oosik (walrus baculum or penis bone), walrus and polar bear skulls, sperm whale teeth, mammoth ivory, pre-ban elephant ivory, muskox horns and whale baleen.

We offer ivory for the carver, knife maker, jeweler, scrimshander, furniture maker and wood worker in either a natural or polished finish. Then there are just as many who appreciate the tusk itself as a natural art form without any processing. Whatever the need, there is a wide selection of this material available.

With its dense, closed cell structure, ivory is popular for its tonal qualities in the making of musical instruments. Ivory is better than more porous bone or man-made materials in that it is able to transmit clear sound in the instrument. Mammoth, pre-ban elephant or walrus ivories are sought after for this purpose.

We guarantee these materials. If your order does not meet your expectations, return it right away and we will refund the purchase price. All you're out is the shipping charges.

We Buy Ivory Tusks

We are pleased to bid on unworked legal ivory tusks from private collectors, estate sales, museums and private zoos. We are interested in Mammoth tusks, Hippo teeth, Antique documented Pre-ban elephant tusks, as well as Sperm whale teeth. We do not purchase carved ivory and leave that business to private art galleries.

We follow international CITES rules and the laws of Canada. That means we are only able to purchase hippo, antique pre-ban elephant and sperm whale teeth already in Canada.

 For sales or pricing info, contact us at info@canadianivory.com

 

Walrus Tusks - Odobenus rosmarus

Example of  Walrus tusks: 
large outer pair - male tusks with natural finish, 1.8 kg (4 lbs) each, 58 cm (23"); 
Middle pair - male tusks polished 1.05 kg (2.3 lbs) each, 48 cm (18");
Inner pair - female tusks polished 0.50 kg (1.1 lbs), 38 cm (15")

 

Walrus tusks arise from two modified canine teeth. They tend to be oval in cross section. The composition in cross section consists of an outer cementum layer. Within that layer lies the dentine. The dentine of the walrus tusk in turn is divided into  an outer primary dentine, which has a classical ivory appearance, and then within that layer a secondary dentine, which has an intriguing marbled appearance. It is the presence of this secondary dentine that is characteristic of walrus ivory and differentiates it from other animals. The hardness between the 3 layers is quite consistent.

At the base of the walrus tusks is the conical pulp cavity. The pulp cavity includes connective tissue and odontoblastic cells which are responsible for the formation of new walrus tusk material. The size and ultimate shape of the pulp cavity varies from animal to animal but is similar between the 2 walrus tusks of the same animal. Typically the cavity is 2.5 - 4 cm (1 to 1.5”) in depth, but can range from only 1 - 8 cm (0.5 to 3”). 

Fine longitudinal black cracks occur in the cementum of walrus tusks and on into the outermost portion of the primary dentine. These ‘breathing cracks’ are more common on larger tusks, on the outer rather than the inner side of the tusk and occur only outside the gum line. 

The surfaces of the tusks aren’t always absolutely flat. They can naturally grow in a convoluted shape with longitudinal dips and grooves which can enhance some applications. 
 

Tusks are formed on both the male and female walrus. The males tend to produce heavier set, more impressive tusks than the females. Their size lends them to larger sculptures and applications where larger piece size is an issue. A common size for males is 1.0 - 1.4 kg (2 to 3 lbs) with a length of 40 cm (16”) and a base cross section of 3 by 6 cm (1.25 by 2.5”). The female tusks are more slender and have less taper going from the base to the tip. Typically the length of female walrus tusks is similar to a male but the base is more round than oval, say 4 cm (1.5”) diameter, and the weight runs 0.5 to 1.0 kg (1 to 2 lbs.)

 

Walrus Skulls

Walrus skulls are impressive. A male walrus skull will measure 30 to 35 cm (12 to 14”) in length (front to back) and weigh up to 10 kg (20 lbs) with the tusks. Unlike most marine mammals, walrus skulls are well armored given that they must anchor the tusks used for haul-out, feeding and fighting.

 

 

Walrus Oosik

Walrus oosik is a dense bone popular for carving and knife handles. Typically they are 45 to 50 cm (18-20") in length and 2 to 4 cm (1-1.5") in diameter in the middle. There is only a small porous core that leaves plenty of thickness for carving or shaping. 

 

 

Walrus Teeth

These walrus teeth are located behind the primary tusks (behind the canine teeth). Ranging in size from 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 1/2 ") long they are used for micro-carving, small scrimshaw and jewelry. In wood working they are used sliced in inlay or in mask making.
 

 

Narwhal Tusk - Monodon monoceros

 

The narwhal tusk (see picture of cross section) is formed from a modified left upper incisor tooth. The tusk is a beautiful spiral of varying tones of white. Narwhal tusks occur on males – rarely on females. Very rarely there are double tusks on one male. The narwhal tusk consists of an outer cementum layer and one inside dentine layer. Inside the dentine is a pulp cavity that extends down most of the length of the tusk, narrowing in diameter and finally disappearing towards the tip of the tusk. Through history the narwhal tusk has been associated with the unicorn and has been associated with mystical properties. It was said for example in Viking days that a cup made from the tusk of a narwhal would save the owner from poisoning by his enemies.

There is much speculation on the purpose of narwhal tusks in nature. Suggestions have been made including mate attraction, communication and determining water temperature and maybe salinity. Living in a hostile arctic, ice ridden environment it is important to be able to source open water for breathing. It is not thought that the tusks are used in feeding or fighting.

Skull of female narwhal showing 25 cm (10") residual tusk on the left side. This residual tusk resides within the skull and doesn't normally protrude - it does so here for the sake of the picture.
 

Male narwhal skull with tusk. Mandible shown in front of skull.

Cross section of narwhal tusk showing cementum and dentine layers with pulp cavity in the middle.  The relative diameter of the cavity depends on the animal age.  In older narwhal the cavity will all but disappear.


Muskox Horns - Ovibos moschatus

Large new shipment of muskox horns in stock.

Horns available as pairs or singles. Muskox horn polishes to a beautiful translucent caramel colour with opaque white streaks. The pair in this picture measures 60 cm (24") from horn tip to horn tip and weighs 7.0 kg (15 lbs.) The single is much smaller at 1.8 kg (4 lbs.)

The ‘boss’ portion of the tusk refers to the part of the horn that attaches to the tusk to the skull. Interestingly, muskox horn can be molded or formed with the application of steam.

 

Polar Bear skull shown measures 36 cm (14") long by 19 cm (8") wide.

Polar Bear Skull - Ursus maritimus

 

Whale Baleen - Bowhead whale - Balaena mysticetus

Non-toothed whales have a number of baleen plates arranged as overlapping shingles. Along one edge hairs act as a sieve with which to extract food from the water. The plates are tapered from approximately 20 cm wide (8") and 1 cm thick (1/2") to a point and are up to 3 m (9 or 10') in length. The whale baleen also taper from the top to the bottom edge along the length.

The source of baleen is intermittent. Some northern communities are given a rare licence by Canadian Federal authorities to harvest a whale. Occasionally there is natural mortality found.

Baleen from the bowhead whale has a streaked dark grey coating over a jet black interior. Once used as stays in ladies' corsets of Victorian times, it was regarded as nature's plastic because there is some elasticity to thin pieces. It is used today in carvings or as accent pieces in carvings and also reverse scrimshaw (white on black). Baleen will take a high gloss with polishing.

It is regarded as Appendix 1 in CITES and is available in Canada only.

 

Sperm Whale Teeth - Physeter macrocephallus

These Sperm whale teeth have a long history for carving, scrimshanding and collecting. These Sperm whale teeth are CITES Appendix I and as such international trade is not possible. They were obtained in Canada in the 1970's, prior to trade bans being put in place. Available for sale in Canada only.

 

 

Mammoth Tusk

Mammoth is now extinct anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 years. Mammoth ivory is a beautiful medium to work. From Canadian origin, long buried in the permafrost this material can exhibit some colour taken from soil minerals on the outside cementum layer. Typically the inside is a light cream colour. It polishes to a bright shine using jewelers rouge on a cloth wheel or to a matt finish using steel wool. It can be stained. We like to source mammoth ivory that has been dried for at least 4 years. That curing time affords the material more stability and thus less disappointment. We do our best to pass on the history of the pieces as we know it. We have pieces of varying grades typically cut into 3 to 6” lengths.

Being an extinct species, we can ship to most countries with no permit required. Both mammoth and elephant ivory exhibit a characteristic zig-zag or diamond shaped grain in cross section called Shreger lines. It is the angle of this grain which determines which of these 2 species the ivory is from.

NEW PRODUCT – We are now offering mammoth ivory slabs for a number of uses including knife scales, jewelry, musical instruments, pendant slabs and raw material for working on a lathe. Most is cut into ¼” thick slabs but other sizes are available. Please email or call and we can provide a list of pieces available.

 

Pre-ban Elephant Tusk

NONE IN STOCK AT THE MOMENT

Pre-ban elephant ivory is that ivory which entered Canada under CITES permit prior to 1989. In that year, international trade was stopped by international agreement through CITES. We respect the current conservation work of groups to maintain elephant populations in various locations of the world and we will not entertain handling illegal post-ban ivory. That’s important. It is legal to own, trade and ship pre-ban elephant ivory within Canada. International trade or transporting pre-ban elephant ivory outside Canada is not permitted. Pre-ban elephant ivory is sold as pieces or slabs, much like mammoth ivory. With this ivory at least 2 decades old, the material we sell is well cured (dried).


Ivory Art

Please contact us for current stock of hand made ivory artwork:

On left, Wolf pendant with a salmon at its feet. First Nations artist in traditional westcoast style. 5 x 10 cm (2 x 4") Abalone shell inlay on walrus ivory. $Canadian 495.

On the right, killer whale by same artist. 4 1/2 x 9 cm (1 3/4 x 3 1/2") Abalone shell inlay on mammoth ivory. $Cdn 495.
 

On left, Owl pendant with the Moon on its shoulder. Robert "Cymba" Vincent artist. 4 x 6 cm ( 1 1/2 x 2 1/2") Walrus ivory with abalone shell inlay around the moon, tiger eye in the owl eyes and Austrian glass in the moon eyes. $Cdn 375.

On the right, Hummingbird pendant. Same artist. 4 x 5 cm (1 1/2 x 1 3/4") Walrus ivory with abalone shell background with carnelian malachite; ebony backing. $Cdn 195.
 

On left, Frog pendant. Robert "Cymba" Vincent artist. 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 cm (3/4 x 1 1/2") Walrus ivory (tooth) with garnet eyes. $Cdn 95

On right, Flower Pendant. Same artist. 1 1/2 x 2 1/2 cm (3/4 x 1") Walrus ivory (tooth) with carnelian centre. $95.
 

 

 

Please click any of the Ivory Art images for a larger, more detailed version of the picture.


Working with Ivory

Working with ivory can be done with some of the same tools and methods as woodworking. Primary cuts are made with a bandsaw with ¼ to ½” blades and tooth counts of 8 to 10 teeth per inch. If there’s not too much to cut, a hack saw or even a fine toothed cross cut wood saw will work just fine. Use a finer tooth count, say 14 to 18 tpi, for subsequent cuts on the same band saw or use a jeweler’s saw. I will often apply a little Welbond glue to the end grain freshly after a cut. I’ve found ivory to be abrasive to tools and it pays to invest in quality blades. Be careful to keep your saw blades sharp and don’t apply too much pressure as you cut. It’s ok to take your time. Too much pressure with a duller blade and you’ll see your cut ‘wander’ off its intended path.

Sanding with a bench mounted belt sander works well by working the grits up to final hand sanding of 400 to 600. I suggest that you start at around 100 to 120. Too coarse and the scratches will be tough to work out of the surface. Take your time in moving up the grits or you’ll have to back-peddle your grit to remove lines from a coarser grit. Where carving is considered, a ‘dremel’ type tool works well. Small cracks can be filled with epoxy mixed with ivory dust and then sanded smooth. That’s an old carver’s trick.

For both cutting and sanding I use a vacuum system attached to the tools and I usually wear some form of eye and respiratory protection. While I’ve not heard of ivory being particularly toxic, it just makes sense to not expose oneself to the dust as part of a healthy industrial hygiene regime. The more the exposure the more the importance. I know some carvers who use a fan behind them or to one side as they work along with a dust mask. If I can work outside, I do.

After sanding, a choice of a matt finish can be made, perhaps augmented with some fine steel wool. It’s amazing what steel wool will do. That’s my personal preference for a finish. Alternatively, there are a number of jeweler rouges available from lapidary shops that can be applied with a cloth wheel mounted with on a bench grinder to provide a glossy finish. Ensure you use white rouge and a white cloth wheel, or the colour can transfer to your work and be difficult to remove.

The primary enemy to working with ivory is a build up of heat resulting in the surface taking on a chalky look. If the piece gets too warm to comfortably hold, it’s too hot. Be particularly cautious in this respect with sanding.

There is a lot of controversy over ‘stabilizing’ ivory. Some swear by it and others don’t. Stabilizing is simply removing very slight residual moisture using low heat or a vacuum from the ivory and replacing it with an oil or a resin. There are some home-made and professional remedies available. Where it’s of more importance is where the ivory is backed onto some other material, such as metal in a knife handle, where differential expansion from heat could possibly lead to difficulties. Alternatively, in this case use an attachment system with some ‘give’ in it. If you would like further information, I suggest that you make contact through your local knife making guild.

Gemological properties of ivory vary somewhat by species. For elephant ivory, Makeup: 65-70% hydroxyapatite CA5(PO4)3OH plus collagen and elastin proteins; hardness 2.5 to 2.75; specific gravity 1.7 to 2.0


Regulations

The walrus and narwhal are primarily hunted for their meat by the Inuit of northern Canada. This hunt is tightly regulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and pilot projects are providing more local autonomy. The tusks provide a secondary resource and source of cash and are not the primary objective of the hunt. The tusks have historical significance in providing the medium for the creation of implements, toys and religious objects. Trade in this ivory and its ownership is legal within Canada. 

International trade of the tusks is possible and controlled by permit under the auspices of the ‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’ (CITES). By international agreement, Canada can issue a CITES Export Permit which will be recognized by those other countries which allow such imports.  

The normal permit process commences with an application to Canadian CITES authorities for an Export Permit. When issued, that permit is faxed or emailed to the customer in order that an application can be made to the CITES authorities of the importing country for a CITES Import Permit. When the Import Permit is issued we can ship.

Notably the United States restricts imports of walrus and narwhal. We cannot ship to the United States. However mammoth tusk and muskox horn shipments to the U.S. have gone smoothly to date. No permits needed.

International trade of ivories has been managed through CITES from the 1970’s and 1980’s and for some such as with the elephant, international trade was halted from 1989. Since then trade of ivories already within a given country has been generally permitted, but with limits to fresh material and with thus a diminishing supply artisans and collectors have had to look to other non-endangered sources of ivory such as offered here. 

Ordering these Materials

If you’d like to order or for inquiries about pricing on any of these materials, please call or write:

Email: info@canadianivory.com

Canadian Ivory Inc.
Ron Gray, President
604-266-5472
Vancouver, B.C.

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Links of Interest:

www.lab.fws.gov/IVORY/text/what_is.html tusk morphology of tusked species 
www.shanewilson.com  sculptor of antlers
www.luth.org  making and repairing stringed instruments
www.cites.org/common/directy/e_directy.html   provides CITES contacts for imports
www.ukcites.gov.uk  describes the import process into the UK