How to Care for Your Antique Ivory

An organic material with a high moisture absorption rate and high sensitivity to temperature changes, ivory naturally undergoes changes in its appearance over time. Ivory may get either bigger or smaller as it ages. Also, the surface of ivory eventually turns into yellow or a darker color, which is a sign of the material’s aging. Such a new color must be preserved to make the ivory’s beauty last for a longer time and to prevent it from losing its value. Thus, you have to take good care of your antique ivory so that it won’t succumb to discoloration or damage.
The following are basic tips to ensure that your ivory keeps its exquisite look for many years.

• Protect the ivory from extreme and constantly changing weather conditions. Ivory should be stored in a place with just the right moisture level (45 to 55 percent) and temperature (65 to 72 degrees Celsius). Particularly, the ivory should be kept away from cold windows, direct sunlight, attics, basements, outside walls, and other humid areas.

• Be sure that the moisture level does not go beyond 70 percent. Otherwise, your ivory will get damaged due to mildew and mold formation, swelling, or warping. Exposure to high humidity level can also cause black spots to develop on the ivory’s surface.

• Before cleaning the ivory, make sure you test a small portion first to check if it will have adverse reaction to the cleaning method you are going to use.

• Also, you have to wash your hands first to get rid of dirt and oil before you proceed to cleaning the ivory. Preferably, use white gloves while cleaning the ivory to prevent staining its surface.

• Never use liquids such as water and cleaning solutions to clean ivory pieces since they might cause cracking or swelling.

• The proper way to clean ivory is to brush dirt off using a clean and soft toothbrush or paintbrush. For stubborn dirt, you can mix distilled water and ethyl alcohol and use the solution on a piece of paper towel. Allow the ivory piece to dry right away. When it has already dried, buff the ivory with a soft, clean cloth.

• Your ivory has to be hydrated to keep it from drying out and becoming brittle with age. It is recommended that you wrap your ivory items in a soft cloth soaked in glycerin or mineral oil every six months. You may also apply light vegetable oil directly on the surface of the ivory, let the oil stay overnight, and wipe it off in the morning.

• If you’re not sure you can handle the maintenance of your ivory on your own, it is better to consult or leave the job to a professional ivory conservator.
Don’t let your precious antique ivory become a thing of the past. Handle it with utmost care and clean it regularly. With proper and careful maintenance, you can keep your ivory pieces in good condition in the long term.

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