Sculpture techniques: ivory carving
Ivory is the dense, hard, creamy white substance that forms the tusks of mammals, though the term is also used for other similar materials. For centuries it has been highly valued by craftsmen and patrons alike for use in religious and secular objects.
The main source of ivory is elephant tusks from North Africa and India. The tusks of the Atlantic walrus and whalebone from the Finner whale have been popular in western and northern Europe since the 10th century. Animal bones were used by the Embriachi workshop in northern Italy during the 15th century.
The structure of ivory varies from one species of animal to another. Elephant tusks grow outward in successive layers and have a conical interior cavity (the 'pulp cavity'). This extends into a very small nerve running the length of the tusk. African ivory tusks can grow as long as two metres.