Antique Whale Tooth Scrimshaw
Antique whale tooth scrimshaw is handicrafts made from the bones and teeth of whales. Although sometimes the teeth and bones are carved into small figurines, such items are generally classified as ivory carving.
History and Description
Traditional scrimshaw retains the shape of the original material, and involved intricately carved lettering, small portraits and scenes. Sometimes, a pigment would be used to highlight the work, but more often it was left plain, and the natural pigments in the bone emphasized the carving.
The practice began as a profitable by-product created by whaling crews (called scrimshanders) between 1745-1749, and continued until commercial whaling was banned.
Guide For Collectors
Due to the shortage of materials following the whaling ban, very little contemporary scrimshaw is produced. However, it remains popular among collectors.
Aged ivory is easy to replicate from plastic, and the finished result is difficult to distinguish from the real thing. The way to test that the article is genuine is to heat a fine-tipped needle until it is red, then press the tip against the scrimshaw. If it is plastic, it will leave a scar because the plastic will melt. If it is ivory, the only mark will be a tiny black dot, which can be easily cleaned.
The website antiquescrimshaw.net offers collections or individual items for sale.
An antique scrimshaw whale tooth was sold by San Rafael Auction Gallery in November 2011 for $3250.
An antique scrimshaw whale tooth was sold by Stanton Auctions in September 2010 for $475.
An antique whale tooth scrimshaw with ship design was sold by Estate Auction Company in November 2011 for $170.
An antique whale tooth scrimshaw piece was sold by Stanton Auctions in September 2010 for $850.
An antique whale tooth scrimshaw piece was sold by Elite Decorative Arts in December 2011 for $550.
A pair of 19th century whale tooth scrimshaw pieces was sold by Great Gatsby’s Antiques in December 2011 for $1000.