Is this Native?

It looks old, but What are your opinions? I believe the beads to be ivory, and the sterling beads are hollow. It’s very small, likely a child’s size. The clasp and beads appear to be hand- made as well.

Sorry for the sideways pics, I am fighting with my phone right now.

This is when a microscope would be helpful. I have an ivory Victorian glove-stretcher and you can see the fine striations of the natural material – it’s pretty distinctive. I’ve owned carved bone Victorian pieces – one in which someone carved very intricate, detailed flowers – & compared the two objects closely & there was a definite difference, a certain waxiness and yellowish patina to the ivory.

That said, I found this interesting item in search:

As a former Victorian collector, you’ll understand why I wondered if the child’s necklace was coral. I don’t know if Navajo culture held the same beliefs as Anglo culture about coral being protective of children or good for them during teething.

I’ve louped it up close and although it has a similarity to coral, I am positive it is either bone or ivory. The natural striations you mentioned are present (faintly), but I was just struggling to get decent pictures today. We have had this necklace in the shop for years and had it labeled as “Victorian ivory necklace” and nothing more. When dept. of fish and game stared cracking down on selling ivory, we decided to take it out of the store to be safe. Everything about the necklace looks European or non- native, but the silver beads look just like bench beads.

To me, it looks native-made because of the beads and the clasp. I have seen some early Zuni pieces with ivory inlay.

We need Jason around here. Haven’t seen much of him lately.

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As always, Thank you for your input❤️ I have had this for years so waiting a few more days won’t bother me!

It appears to be Native American made. That style of bead you find on a breastplate, it would be bone. The only thing now is to determine if it is real bone or not, plastic would be the most likely fake. Not plastic, then bone. Your beads have a beautiful patina.

You just brought up an interesting thing, selling ivory is now illegal.

Do you know if someone like me, an individual can sell ivory?

I get the idea everybody here that answers has a store!?

& I have to ask, wouldn’t it be more likely that it’s whale bone or some other bone?

This link may help you.

And no, not everyone who replies here has a store. Me, I’m just a collector. I de-accession stuff when I find better examples, but I never buy anything with the expectation that I will make a living from it. (In fact, sometimes when I de-accession things, I lose money.)

The general rule in my business is that you must have documentation that the item is antique. Also, we say that is the item has less than 10 percent ivory you’ll be okay. This is not the law, but this is just what we go by.

I have heard horror stories of Dept. of Fish & Game confiscating and destroying 17th century pianos because the keys were ivory. Although I don’t like to bad mouth anyone, dept. of Fish & game are a bunch of idiots who can’t tell the difference between ivory, bone and celluloid. If it has “the look,” they will confiscate it. I have been at flea markets where I have seen them confiscate items from dealers, and they have gone through and raided a neighboring antique store as well. If you have ivory you would like to sell, I would recommend selling “under the table.” Sell to a trusted buyer, do not display your items. If you think you might have a potential buyer, just ask them something like “hey, would you be interested in any ivory pieces?”

@jason @saef I did a needle test just in case, and the material is organic, not plastic (yay!)

Of course it’s not plastic. It reeks of authenticity. I could not imagine that those beads would turn out to be, what, ivory Bakelite or something like that? No way.

My apologies: Non-Native-American objects are posted here, but it’s for the sake of furthering the discussion of how to identify ivory.

Here are two antique ivory objects, personally owned by me and not for sale. The ivory has been professionally verified and the age of the pieces has been certified to be more than 100 years old.

The miniature portrait is from the 1790s, probably from the Continent. You can see how the texture of the ivory works beautifully with the brushwork applying the paint, giving it a sort of grainy, dreamy softness.

The glove stretcher is probably from the 1880s-1890s. The striations are pretty apparent, even in my not-so-great photo.

Here’s a full-length picture of the glove-stretcher, in case you have never seen this object before. A good glove was a tight-fitting glove, like Spanx for the hand. This made a new pair bearable. Your wealthy urban person during the height of the 19th century never went out in society with bare hands like a laborer and went through many pairs of gloves yearly, since they had to be perfectly clean and they were really hard to clean.

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Thanks! You’re a wealth of information & that’s no lie!

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Thank you for the insight! Cops & Flea Markets go hand in hand here in the south. I don’t “display” anything, I don’t have a shop… everything I have is from family (mostly deceased) & I’m not a collector! Well, at least, I wasn’t?


Hi all, nice chain on this topic. I have learned after 13 years of living in Africa to utilize the black light to determine the authenticity of Ivory. Black light will make the striations jump out a bright white. When you did the hot needle test did it leave a mark? By mark I mean any inclusion of the surface?

Regarding the laws on Ivory. In order to sell an object of Ivory or other endangered species it requires a CITES permit. I recently purchased some earrings for my wife and they came with a copy of the original CITES Permit that the Ivory was imported under. That company can be reached by this link below if you want to check it out.

Personally all Ivory I come across I keep. The penalties for selling are just too great. Same thing with Tortoise shell and other endangered species.


This is definitely a unique piece and IMHO is could very well be a child’s necklace. I also agree about the color but there is one bead that I can tell from the photos that has yellowed as ivory usually does. Good question though because of the bench beads it absolutely looks N.A. but what tribe or who made it…??? And usually something that old would not have any hallmarks/makers marks anyway, right?!?

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This is some excellent info here! I couldn’t remember if there was a ‘grandfather’ law with ivory or not. I’ll have to read up on your link!

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I would just like to add, not all ivory comes from elephants, elk have 2 ivory teeth ‘whistlers’ and in warthog tusks, which are commonly used in jewelry and knives, and legal for trade. there is also ivory in hippos, sperm whales, orcas, walrus tusks, and probably others, mastodon ivory is still legal trade as well.