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Ivory Ethics

Ancient Ivory vs Modern Ivory

All jewelry containing ivory made by Thomas Cahill Designs is from ancient fossil walrus and mammoth ivory. These animals died 300 to 15,000 years ago.  Their ivory has been buried and preserved in the permafrost where the slow absorption of the minerals around them changed the color of the ivory and caused the unique color variations.

Since 1989 all imports of African elephant ivory into the United States, in any form, has been banned. We respect and support all laws and conservation efforts created to protect elephants and endangered animals worldwide. We have never traded in elephant or endangered ivory and stand entirely in opposition to the practice.


Mammoth Ivory and Schreger Lines


The majestic mammoth and mastodon are believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago.  Ivory from mammoth and mastodon is "tusk ivory" and is identified by the grain pattern that is visible in the cross sections. All types of elephants, including modern day African and Asian elephants, have these patterns, which are called Schreger Lines.  They are evidenced by a series of spiral lines running clockwise and counter clockwise over one another. When these lines create angle averages below 100 degrees, the ivory is mammoth or mastodon and therefore ancient fossil ivory and legal for sale. If the points have angles greater than 100 degree the ivory is from modern elephants and therefore illegal. These lines can often be seen with the naked eye, but are more easily identified under a microscope.

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Fossilized Walrus Ivory

Walrus ivory is "tooth ivory" which does not have any Schreger lines, and is therefore easily differentiated from elephant and mammoth ivory.  The walrus teeth have a unique marble like quality, with an outer dentine layer and a mottled inner core, as with all teeth.  Trade in walrus ivory is regulated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and an international agreement entitled the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

Only Alaskan Natives may legally obtain and carve new walrus.  Fossil walrus ivory is ancient and not obtained from living animals and can be legally traded and carved.  The import and export of fossilized walrus ivory is closely monitored by the Fish and Wildlife Departments of each country in accordance with CITES to ensure it is ancient material to protect these wonderful creatures.  For more information go to:

The ancient walrus ivory we use is excavated on islands and in the water off the coasts of Alaska and Siberia, and ranges in age from 300 – 5,000 years.  Fossil walrus ivory is one of the rarest and most beautiful ivories available.  This ivory has slowly taken on an exotic array of warm colors ranging from cream to dark brown, and can also display rarer colors including blue, black, orange and green.

Residents of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York

Due to state specific regulations concerning sale of ivory products, we will not be able to honor any purchases containing ivory components to these states.  All orders to these states will be inspected to assure compliance.  Customers of orders containing ivory will be contacted and refunded for the individual products containing ivory prior to completing the order. 

Our use of fossil mammoth ivory and fossil walrus ivory is a way to preserve a bit of our history and use a natural resource that would otherwise be lost in time.  The distinctive character and growing rarity of fossil ivory makes each piece a one-of-a-kind treasure, and we are pleased to offer you unique, wearable and functional art.

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