In 1989, the United Nations placed a ban on international ivory trading, a measure that was meant to protect elephants. However, it’s been counterproductive because restricting supply in a time of increasing wealth in Asia has driven up prices and increased incentives and rewards for poachers. Since 2008, large-scale elephant poaching has been on the rise and the illegal ivory market is thriving. In an effort to draw attention to this issue, Luxembourgian designer Lucie Majerus created the range Human Ivory, in which she turns lost teeth into jewellery pieces for both men and women.
A Design Academy Eindhoven graduate, Majerus first got the idea for the project after having her wisdom teeth removed. She hung onto them, and soon developed the idea for a jewellery collection in which our own bodies served as the sources of adornment. After securing the wisdom teeth of two teachers who had also recently undergone wisdom teeth removal - as well as asking her dentist for any discarded teeth - Majerus began work on the collection, starting with a ring.
Made up of earrings, cufflinks, rings and tie pins, the Human Ivory collection is, according to its creator, in direct opposition to materialistic values. “Human Ivory acts metaphorically for having our own value in ourselves,” Majerus states. “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?”
After cleaning and bleaching the teeth, Majerus meticulously polishes them to take on the appearance of conventional pearls - a measure taken to appease those who may be put off by wearing their own teeth. But as the designer herself rhetorically asks on her website "Why wouldn’t we value our own material instead of the precious material from other species?"
The Human Ivory collection was on display at this year’s Dutch Design Week and according to the designer, most people didn't recoil from it like she assumed they would. “Surprisingly, most people did not creep out by the sight of the jewellery, but really like the idea,” she said. Majerus is currently taking commissions to create more tooth-based jewellery.