Caring for Your Ivory **
By David Moncrief
Note: The following is only suggested care of ivory; it is not intended to be a standard manual of care for ivory of any kind, and should be used only as a reference for your consideration. We are not responsible for how one might care for ivory or reader's interpretation of this content. |
Before cleaning any ivory, it helps to know what comprises ivory - that would be dentine. Dentine is made up of both organic and inorganic components. The organic components provide the capacity for growth and repair, while the inorganic components provide for strength and rigidity. Also, the patina on old ivory is the result of the natural aging process.
Care of ivory is also dictated by how it reacts to the surrounding environment. Results of exposure to different environments are as follows:
Due to the porousness of ivory, it is susceptible to staining and contact with the following should be avoided:
Cleaning Piano Keys - Piano keys can become soiled over time from an accumulation of oil and dirt deposited by fingers and can be cleaned the following way:
Cleaning ivory beads - Dip a soft cloth in a warm water-mild soap solution and go over the beads. Dry with clean cloth paying particular attention to the clasp. Do not submerge the entire string of beads as this may cause damage to the string, clasp or other ornaments.
Ivory jewelry should be stored away from exposure to water and direct light. If you use a damp cloth to clean your ivory jewelry, dry it immediately.
The ivory patina is very desirable, however, to prevent excessive discoloration to ivory jewelry it should not be worn when the weather is hot and moist as human sweat is the main cause of ivory discoloration on antique jewelry. You may also find some jewelry with pinkish or reddish tinge. This discoloration may be attributed to the absorption of henna dye on the skin of previous owners. General Maintenance - To re-hydrate your ivory, you may want to apply mineral oil (colorless) to the item with a clean brush. Remove any excess with another clean brush followed by gently wiping with a soft, dry cloth.
Option: Ivory can be polished with a pure beeswax on an annual basis. To do this, warm the beeswax and gently rub the wax onto the ivory. A cotton swab dipped in the warm beeswax may be a more efficient way to apply the wax onto some items. Note: The beeswax should be colorless to avoid staining the ivory.
Figurines - Caring for ivory figurines is basically the same as caring for jewelry or any other ivory item. To help prevent hairline cracks, it is recommended to give these items regular care, ie., once a year by using mineral oil and a soft brush to apply a thin coat over the surface of the item. If the ivory is in excellent condition, use a clean soft brush to brush away the oil. If the item is dry, allow the oil to sit for a while and then use a clean soft brush to brush away the oil. After using the clean brush, use a clean soft cloth and with a gentle hand smoothly polish the surface until it looks oil free.
Looking for more information? Here is a link to a another site, which advocates non-fluid cleaning methods and is well worth reading if you are attempting cleaning . . . http://www.bladestuff.com/conserva/ivory3.html . . . and here is a link to the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, on the care and handling of precious ivory . . . http://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/ivory.html
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