In a time when ivory poaching has gotten so bad that it threatens to wipe out several animal species, a young Dutch designer is creating “egalitarian jewelry” made of our very own ivory – teeth.
Lucie Majerus first got the idea for her “human ivory” collection after having her wisdom teeth removed. She kept them and soon realized they would make great material for a statement jewelry collection. “Why wouldn’t we value our own material instead of the precious material from other species?” she rhetorically asks. “In opposition to materialistic values, “Human Ivory” acts metaphorically for having our own value in ourselves. A suggestion to cherish our own “Material” instead of other species’ teeth and reconsider conventional preciousness. What if we mine our own ivory and turn it into pearls?”
Photo: Matan Bellmakers
Her own teeth became a ring, but in order to create a whole collection, she needed more material, and since having more of her teeth removed wasn’t a very pleasant option, she asked her dentist to save his patient’s unwanted teeth. Most people choose not to keep their pulled teeth, so they are usually donated to dentistry schools. Majerus also received the lost teeth of two of her teachers at Design Academy Eindhoven, so she had a decent supply of human ivory to experiment with.
To turn human teeth into appealing pieces of jewelry, Lucie Majerus first bleaches them, and then uses a stone polishing machine to shape the teeth into various shapes – molars are thick enough to be shaped into pearls, while incisors and canines are turned into tear-like pieces. By removing their original form, takes away some of the disgusting factor associated with removed human teeth.
Majerus showcased her human ivory jewelry collection at this year’s Dutch Design Week, and claims that people’s reaction was mostly positive. “Surprisingly, most people aren’t creeped out by the sight of the jewelry, but really like the idea,” Majerus told FastCo Design. “Some regret that they didn’t keep their tooth at the dentist and some, who will have teeth taken out soon, are now looking forward to it.”
Following the success of her initial project, the Luxembourg-born designer has now started taking commissions to turn lost human teeth into various types of accessories, like rings, tie pins, cufflinks and more.
Lucie Majerus is not the first to create jewelry using human teeth. In 2009, we featured the work of silversmith Polly van der Glas, who created a collection of teeth encrusted silver jewelry, although her works were more straightforward than Majerus’ human ivory project.