Elk Ivory in Wyoming

October in Wyoming brings a lot of elk hunters to the mountains. A lot of people don't realize that elk have two ivory teeth and the hunters keep them and sometimes they bring them to me for a custom-made piece of jewelry. When I receive the ivories I cut, shape and polish them to make them ready for setting.

Before I lived in Wyoming I had no idea of this long tradition. It reaches back through the centuries, regional Native American tribes would decorate their clothing and jewelry with them. I made my first pieces of elk ivory jewelry with ivories from my husband's hunts. I was a little worried about how they would handle cutting and polishing but found that they are really quite hard and take a polish beautifully. Each pair of ivories is different in color, shape and pattern. The older elk have ivories that have brownish rings and those are the most desired. Young elk have pointier, whiter ivories that are sometimes not as solid and flat as their elders.

Elk Ivory jewelry is unique to the culture of the American West; I haven't seen it many other places. Some Wyoming women skip the traditional diamond ring in place of elk ivory. Men wear the rings proudly as well; I've made belt buckles, cuff links and bolo ties for them. And for women I've made the ivories in to all types of jewelry and sometimes I've incorporated family gems into the piece. Over the years I have made a lot of special pieces for customers and right now I am in the season once again and working on custom pieces for Christmas gifts. Usually I use the ivories my customers bring me but I also have a few that I stock for my inventory so people can get in touch with me about that option.

To see a photo gallery of past elk ivory jewelry that I've made, click here: http://www.isabeljewelry.com/gallery/wyoming-elk-ivory-jewelry

Above: Wyoming Jade and Elk Ivory earrings.