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Old 19th May 2008, 05:11 PM   #1
Alam Shah
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Default Keris Hilt Material

Hi all,

I would like to know what type of hilt material is this?
From the form, where does it originated?
Other information is also welcomed. [ link ]
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Last edited by Alam Shah : 20th May 2008 at 08:48 AM. Reason: add photos
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Old 19th May 2008, 06:11 PM   #2
David
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Hi Shahrial. Nice hilt. Sure looks like sea ivory to me. Dugong maybe. Is there some reason that you think it is something other than that?
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Old 19th May 2008, 10:19 PM   #3
A. G. Maisey
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I've got a number of keris with Bugis style hilts that look like they have the same material as this one. I've always thought it was elephant ivory. I just went and had a look at them under magnification , and there is a distinct grain, and some superficial cracking as we could expect with elephant ivory. I'm not taking a position and saying this definitely is elephant ivory, but it sure looks like it to me, and I have some difficulty in imagining what other source could provide material of sufficient size and shape to allow this style of hilt to be produced.
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Old 19th May 2008, 11:08 PM   #4
Alam Shah
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Hi Shahrial. Nice hilt. Sure looks like sea ivory to me. Dugong maybe. Is there some reason that you think it is something other than that?
Thanks David. I guess it may be sea ivory(?). But from what animal, I'm not sure. Where is this form of hilt originated from?
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Old 20th May 2008, 12:22 AM   #5
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Dear Alam Shah,

it is certainly not elefant ivory.
Elefant ivory has very distinct lines that at one point ore another are crossing each other forming little squares.

On the back of your hilt there is a dark line/crack with small dark dots along it.
I have been told that this line is specific for hippo ivory.
I have seen rencongs with hilts showing this line.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 20th May 2008, 07:52 AM   #6
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Yes, it is true that elephant ivory will often show a cross-hatch grain, but it cannot be taken for granted that because ivory does not show a cross-hatch, it is not elephant ivory.

I have several hundred pieces of ivory, about 100 or so are ivory keris handles, the rest are netsukes, small ivory figurines, and other little bits and pieces. Some that is definitely elephant ivory does not show a cross-hatch grain.

The four bent over handles that I have posted pics of do have a grain, but it is not cross-hatch. I've always thought of these handles as elephant ivory, but I'd be the first to admit they might not be. However, if they are not, what other source, readily available to craftsmen in SE Asia, could provide material of sufficient size to allow handles like this to be produced? Whales teeth wouldn't do it. Walrus? Dugong? Boar? What? These are pretty serious lumps of ivory.

The upright handle is definitely elephant ivory, I've put this up for comparison.
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Old 20th May 2008, 08:38 AM   #7
Alam Shah
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
The upright handle is definitely elephant ivory, I've put this up for comparison.
Hi Alan,
A beautiful display of ivory hilts. I agree with the upright being elephant ivory.
Others are... hmmm...
I'm pretty much interested in all 4 bent hilts, including their hilt cups... especially the 2nd piece. But unfortunately, I could only dream of it... and drool.

Last edited by Alam Shah : 21st May 2008 at 12:49 AM.
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Old 20th May 2008, 09:34 AM   #8
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'Some' info I found on the web.
Some accompanying pictures would be nice / any volunteers
Quote:
1. Elephant Ivory
This category includes ivory from both Indian and African elephants, as well as ivory from mammoths and mastodon. The tusks, or upper incisors, of these animals are used. They can have a cross section of up to 20cm (8"), and be up to 2.5m (almost 3 yards) long. They are oval in cross section, and are made up of a hard, dense tissue called dentin, which is made up of 70% inorganic material, and 30% collagen. Unlike human teeth, elephant tusks do not have an enamel coating. They do have a cementum layer, however; ivory dealers refer to this as the "bark" or the "rind". Occasionally this layer is retained on a piece of worked ivory. One-third to one-half of an elephant tusk is hollow.
Growth occurs as layer upon layer of calcified tissue is deposited on the interior of the tusk; you can see these concentric oval growth lines (called the Lines of Owen) in cross section. If you cut ivory lengthwise, these lines appear triangular. Fine and even near the hollow of the tusk (the pulp cavity), these lines become wavy and have milky areas between them as you get closer to the outside of the tusk.
Unique to elephant ivory are the Lines of Retzius. These fine intersecting lines are visible in cross section, and give an engine-turned effect (intersecting lines with a diamond shape between them).
Generally, elephant ivory has a fine, even grain and is easily carved in all directions. It can be thinly cut (i.e. for piano keys), and can be more deltcately carved than bone. This ivory is often painted or stained, dyed, and gilded. When cut, the pores of the ivory fill with an oily substance, which helps the ivory polish up nicely.

2. Hippopotamus Ivory
This is the second most commonly used ivory, after elephant ivory. Often used for flat items, such as buttons and inlays, it comes from the lower canines and incisors of hippos. The size varies, depending on the size of the animal.
The lower canine is curved, and has a triangular cross section; the incisor is straighter, and has a circular cross section. Both have two layers of dentin: an outer, primary dentin, and an inner, secondary dentin. The innermost layer has a marbled appearance which differs by species, and can even appear to have a greenish cast. The pulp cavities of these teeth are fairly small. Unlike elephant ivory, hippo ivory does have a thick enamel coating.
Hippo ivory is denser than elephant ivory, harder to carve, and has a finer grain. There is none of the "engine turned" effect in cross section, rather, hippo ivory has concentric rings in cross section. Finally, hippo ivory is less prone to decay than elephant ivory.

3. Walrus Ivory
This ivory comes from the upper canines of walrus. It is oval in cross section, and can be over 2 feet in length. It has an inner dentin layer (which has a high mineral content; it forms as the tusk grows, and leaves a marbled look on finished objects), an outer dentin layer, and a smooth, dense cementum layer. Walrus ivory is used primarily for small objects.

4. Sperm Whale Ivory
Thirty teeth of the sperm whale can be used for ivory. Each of these teeth, up to 8" long and 3" across, are hollow for the first half of their length. Sperm whale ivory is easily confused with walrus ivory, as both have two distinct layers. The inner layer of sperm whale ivory, however, is much larger. As well, in a longitudinal section, sperm whale dentin has yellow "globules" included in the marbilization.

5. Hornbill Ivory
This comes from the casque or epithema of the Helmeted Hornbill, a bird native to the East Indies. It is distinguished from the rest of its family (the Bucerotidae) by having the front of its almost vertical and slightly convex epithema made of a solid mass of horn. This "horn" or "ivory" is quite hard and closely-textured. This substance is used to make small objects such as buckles and brooches, and is highly valued by the Chinese. In cross section, you can see a bright yellow interior with a scarlet rim.

6. Vegetable Ivory
The source of vegetable ivory is the inner seed of the South American ivory palm, and is thus completely made of cellulose (rather than collagen). These seeds are the size and shape of a small hen's egg, are very hard, and are solid all the way through. Vegetable ivory is smooth, takes a good polish, easily absorbs dyes, and is relatively inexpensive. It is used for small items only, such as dice and buttons. Since about WWII, vegetable ivory has been largely replaced by plastics.

7. Synthetic Ivories
Since 1865, when it was first invented by Alexander Parkes, celluloid has been used as an excellent ivory substitute. Casein has also been used. Names for these "faux ivories" include French Ivory, Ivoride, Genuine French Ivory, Ivorine, etc. Both grain patterns and the engine turned effect are added -- in general, the patterns of these are very regular in the fakes, and more irregular in the real thing. In instances of very good imitations (i.e. using celluloid), chemical tests are required to tell real ivory and the fakes apart.
________________________________________

Books Dealing with the Identification of Ivory
There are a few good books dealing with the identification of ivory. I currently have available *very* limited quantities (often single copies only) of the following out of print books (click on the dealer name for ordering information):
IVORY By Geoffrey Wills. Published by AS Barnes & Co. First American Edition. Hardcover, 95 pgs. Indexed. Synopsis: covers ivory identification, care, and uses around the world. Many black and white photographs and line drawings. Condition:Very good in Good dustjacket (some scuffing). UN601 $23.00 Uniques.
The following are currently out of print, but are listed here for your information.
Is It Ivory? By Harvey Shell. Published by Ahio Publishing Co., 1983. Paperback.
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Old 20th May 2008, 11:41 AM   #9
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Also I have an handle made by a strange material
It seems like bone (horn?) but in the middle of the hilt there are strange circles more dark
Maybe some collector can help me...
Also i think that the hilts showed are Hippo tooth (while the withe one is elephant)
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Old 20th May 2008, 01:11 PM   #10
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Here is an interesting website comparing ivories and how to ID them:
http://www.australiangemmologist.co...rareivories.pdf
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Old 20th May 2008, 10:46 PM   #11
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That's a good article, David.

My big problem with what this material in my hilts could be is their size:- they're big lumps of ivory. Reading all the info, yeah, I agree, it could be hippo ivory, but if that's the case there was a very robust trade between some parts of Africa, and SE Asia, during at least the 19th century.

I'll see if can get a pic that will show the grain in these hilts of mine. I know this thread started with question from Shahrial, but his hilt seems to be the same material as the ones I've shown, and I've seen a lot of this type of hilt from the same material. Thanks for your comments Shahrial. Yeah, its a bit hard to find this sort of thing these days. The ones I've shown, plus a few I have not shown, all came from a dealer in Jogja about 35 years ago---you just don't see this sort of thing now.
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Old 21st May 2008, 12:47 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif
'Some' info I found on the web.
Some accompanying pictures would be nice / any volunteers
Asomotif, thanks, I've read that.
David, your link is a good resource too.
I think we may find this helpful, as well. [ link ]
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Old 21st May 2008, 05:49 AM   #13
A. G. Maisey
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Here are some close-ups of the hilts posted above.

I think you should be able to see the grain.
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Old 21st May 2008, 05:51 AM   #14
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This is walrus ivory.
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Old 21st May 2008, 05:53 AM   #15
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This is whales tooth.
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Old 3rd June 2008, 03:02 PM   #16
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Default Hilt material

In mine opinion this is Hippopotamus Ivory recognizeble on the long nerve lines.

G.J.
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Old 3rd June 2008, 05:16 PM   #17
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I vote hippo tusk ivory. I have a badek at home with the same material will see if I can take a good pic of it later this week. Look at the top left hand side the dagger I spoke of is there and you can make out the tell tale line in the hilt.


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Old 4th June 2008, 12:23 AM   #18
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Alam Shah, your hilt is buffed mirror shine and looks almost like a glass
I think it is hippo tusk too.
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Old 4th June 2008, 02:36 PM   #19
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I've also been told to differentiate hippo ivory from elephant ivory by their heavier weight, non-criss crossed grains and the 'stitch-line' down the length of the ivory. However, I've not come across pictures from reputable books which show those exactly. I guess maybe I haven't looked hard enough. But my question is - is the "stitch-line" unique to hippo ivory? I've seen quite a number of gigantic sized pekaka hilts (the jawa demam form from N. Malaysia; not the tajong, which shd NOT be called a pekaka at all.) and wondered if the hippo tusk could grow to such epic proportions (the length can be wider than my palm). Considering the wastage and the distance between the tanjak (the sharp 'nose'), the garuda mungkur (the spike rising from the back) and the buah pinang (the base of the hilt), it must have been a HUGE tusk to begin with. It has never ceased to amaze me...

On a side-topic, Lew's picture showing the various daggers has convinced me permanently that despite not specializing in collecting in any specific dagger types, he has impeccable tastes and eagle eyes to pick out the really good specimens... Congratulations.
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Old 5th June 2008, 01:01 PM   #20
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I have seen hippo tusks for sale on the internet that are 17 inches long.
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