Local artist creates elk ivory jewelry

Images of Elk Ivory jewelry courtesy of Megan Clarke.

Ivory is the rare gem of the animal kingdom, but elk and ivory are two words that don’t normally come together in the same sentence. Yet these royal animals are a source of this coveted substance. Elk ivories are the upper canines of bull elk and cow elk. These canines are made of the same hard, white material as the tusks of an elephant or the teeth of a whale, hippopotamus or walrus.

“They’re a hidden gem,” says local metalwork artist Megan Clarke. “Few people think of looking into the mouth of an animal when they have just hunted it.”

Native Americans used elk ivory as currency. Today, it is popular to use the ivories to make rings, earrings, cufflinks, tie clips, necklaces and bracelets.

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Clarke makes sterling silver jewelry using elk ivory, turquoise, and other gemstones. She is a self-taught metallurgist. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a few blogs,” Clarke says, “but I never took any formal classes.”

Elk ivory was the first thing she set in silver. “My husband had all these ivories,” she said. “That was the only reason I wanted to get started.”

Most of the work Clarke does with elk ivory is custom work, and she works with the top of the tooth, although some artists also use the root of the tooth. Ivory is a very hard substance. “It’s holding up well,” Clarke says. “I’ve never seen one chipped.”

Moose ivories come in different colors, from white to very dark. “The darker the color, the older the animal,” she explains. “Elk tend to be whiter.”

“For anyone who has hunted this animal themselves, these are their ivories,” says Clarke. “It’s about the memory and the animal.”

You can find his art on instagram and on Etsy: mcjewelrydesigns™.

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