At a time when global ivory trade is pushing elephants towards extinction, Luxembourgian designer Lucie Majerus has tapped into ivory from humans—teeth—to create beautiful pieces of jewellery and accessories for men and women. Her project, Human Ivory, was showcased at the Dutch Design Week 2016 in October. As her website puts it, 'Human Ivory' proposes an egalitarian jewellery collection, where the body is being adorned by it’s own gem...'
Majerus found inspiration for the project after losing a wisdom tooth, which she made into a finger ring. She sought her dentist's help to source other people's teeth to try her hand at making more jewellery such as earrings and accessories like tiepins and cufflinks.
Bizarre it may sound, but Majerus has a point. Why be cruel to animals when we can find value in materials from our own body? To transform lacklustre teeth into appealing pieces of jewellery, Majerus bleaches them, and then polishes and shapes them to look like pearls. Majerus feels that by careful transformation, the disgust generally associated with human teeth evolves into attraction and beauty.
Majerus is not the first to transform unwanted teeth into jewellery. Aussie silversmith Polly van der Glas brought out a collection in which she embedded teeth into silver jewellery. Her work, however, was different from Majerus's as Glas went for a more straightforward method in which the uprooted tooth was made part of the jewellery in its original form; no polishing, or shaping.
When it comes to personalised jewellery from teeth, and even hair, nothing beats the Victorian era of the 1800s. It was all probably inspired from Queen Victoria's love for jewellery. When the royal family was visiting Scotland, the queen's oldest daughter Victoria, fondly known as Princess Vicky, lost her first milk tooth. To commemorate this milestone in Princess Vicky's life, her father Prince Albert got the tooth made into a rather bizarre jewellery for Victoria—a brooch. In the Victorian era, even hair was used to make personalised jewellery. Ornaments made from hair of dead relatives were seen as a way of remembering them.