Asiatic teeth shipped from Calcutta, Madras, and part of those from Bombay, a the produce of India generally; they are called Asiatic, East Indian. Siaam.
Elephants' teeth differ considerably in their size, weight, and appearance. The outsides of the African teeth run through all the transparent tints of light and deep orange, hazel, and brown, and some are almost black. Those from Asia are similar, although generally lighter, and frequently of a kind of opaque fawn, or stone-colour; they have seldom the transparent character of the African teeth; and they commonly abound in cracks of inconsiderable depth from which the others are comparatively free.
Some teeth are as long as from eight to ten feet, and as heavy as 150, rarely 180 lb. each tooth; sometimes they are only as many inches long, and about one inch in diameter, and of the weight of five or six ounces, and even lighter;; the teeth less than from 10 to 141b. are called "scrivelloes." In section, the tusks are rarely quite circular, sometimes nearly elliptical, seldom exceeding the proportions of four to five, but commonly less exact than either of these forms; figs. 43, 44, and 45, are accurately reduced from sections of teeth; the largest tusk the author has met with measured eight and a quarter inches the longest, and seven inches the shortest diameter of the irregular oval.
The curvature of the teeth is sometimes as much as the half-circle, as in fig. 40, and occasionally even so little or less than the sixth, as fig. 42 they are sometimes finely tapered off, especially in the African teeth; at other times their ends arc very much worn away, in rare instances, to the extent of a third of their apparent length, and generally more so on the one side of the center than the other.
It appears that many of the better teeth, and the superior parts of others, are selected by the natives of INdia for their own consumption, and for exportation to China, as numerous hollow pieces, and other portions of teeth, (the ends of which are generally covered with wax to protect them from the air,) are imported along with the entire teeth; and this selection seems confirmed, as the ivory obtained from Madagascar direct contains generally a larger proportion of superior teeth.
The whole of the ivory shipped from Bombay is scored or sciered with characters, apparently Arabic, and is named Bombay ivory, from the- commercial habit of describing imports from the ship's papers, which quote the port whence the vessel cleared. Many persons however considered this ivory to be exclusively African, although it seems rather improbable that the whole of the ivory from its own immediate vicinity should be excluded from this mart. The commercial regulations regarding the East Indian and East African ivory are alike; those for the sale of the West African ivory are different. The foregoing remarks, (say the Messrs Fauntleroy, from whom principally they were obtained,) should however be received with some latitude, as frequent exceptions in the teeth themselves, and differences of opinion amongst those habitually engaged in the commerce exist; although, considered generally, persons in the constant habit of inspecting ivory can distinguish pretty correctly not only the continent, but also the territory from which any tooth was obtained. * The author has an elephant's tusk which is very hollow and weighs 2 1/2 ounces.
Other teeth end very abruptly, as if they had been broken and repointed before they left the head of the animal, in which they are generally inserted for about one-fourth their length.
The teeth arc hollow about half-way up, and a speek, sometimes called the nerve, but in reality the apex of the successive hollows, is always visible throughout the length of the tusk to its extreme end, the tooth being formed by layers deposited on a vascular pulp after the manner of teeth generally.
The inner and outer surfaces of the teeth are in general tolerably parallel, and exteriorly they are curved in the one direction only, so as to lie nearly flat on the ground; but occasionally they are much curved in both directions, as represented in figs. 47 an 48; the smaller is beautifully formed, and resembles in shape a handsome bullock's horn; the other is furrowed throughout its length, and appears the result of disease or injury.*
The choice of ivory in the teeth is admitted by the most experienced to be a very uncertain matter; of course for the purposes of turning, a solid cone would be the most economical figure, but as that form is not to be met with, we must be satisfied with the nearest approach that we can find to it, and select the tooth as nearly straight, solid, and round as possible, provided the other prognostics are equally favourable.
The rind should appear smooth and free from cracks, and if the heart should be visible at the tip, the more central it is the better; by the close inspection of the tip, from which the bark is always more or less worn away, it may be in general learned whether the tooth is coarse or fine in the grain, transparent or opaque, but the colour of the exterior coat prevents a satisfactory judgment as to the tint or complexion of the ivory within.
After the most careful scrutiny on the outside of the tooth, however, the first cut is always one of a little anxious expectation, as the prognostics are far from certain, and before proceeding to describe the preparation of ivory, I will say a few words of its internal appearance when exposed by the saw.
The African ivory, when in the most perfect condition, should appear when recently cut, of a mellow, warm, transparent tint, almost as if soaked in oil, and with very little appearance of grain or fibre; it is then called transparent or green ivory, from association with green timber; the oil dries up considerably by exposure, and leaves the material of a delicate, and generally permanent tint, a few shades darker than writing-paper.
The Asiatic ivory is of a more opaque dead-white character, apparently from containing less oil, and on being opened it more resembles the ultimate character of the African, but it is the more disposed of the two to become discoloured or yellow. The African ivory is generally closer in texture, harder under the tools, and polishes better than the Asiatic, and its compactness also prevents it from so readily absorbing oil, or the colouring matter of stains when intentionally applied.* The rind is sometimes no more than about one-tenth of an inch in thiekness, and nearly of the colour of the inner ivory, but occasionally it is of double that thickness, dark-coloured, and partially stains the outer layers. As we do not find all specimens of the most perfect kind, we must be prepared to expect others, especially amongst the larger teeth, in which the grain is more apparent, but it generally dies away towards the center of the tooth, the outside being the coarser; the regularity of the grain sometimes gives it the appearance of the engine-turning on a watch-case.
* These are drawn from two teeth in my possession: the first measures round the curve 41 inches, and in a straight line 29 inches; its weight is 8 1/2 pounds; the other measures respectively 39 1/2 and 30 inches, and weighs 27 1/2 pounds: these may be considered as extreme cases. Others are altogether as straight: I have one that is 49 inches long, and only rises 4 1/4 inches from the straight line, and others approach the right line still more nearly.
In some teeth the central part will appear of the transparent character, the outer more nearly white; and the transparent teeth often exhibit, at the solid parts, white opaque patches, which are frequently of a long oval form. Amongst the white ivory, the teeth are often found to be marked in rings alternately light and dark coloured, these are called "ringy or cloudy."
In those teeth in which there appears to be a deficiency of the animal oil, the intervals between the fibres occasionally assume the chalky character of bone, and are disposed to crumble under the tools unless they are very sharp; in this they resemble the softer parts of woods when worked with blunt tools; sometimes the ivory is not only coarse but dark or brown, and the two defects not unfrequently go together. The cracks occasionally penetrate further than they appear to do when viewed from the outside, and more rarely a very considerable portion of the tooth is injured by a musket-ball, although the gold and silver bullets, said to be used by the Eastern potentates, are exceedingly scarce, or else transmuted into iron, of which metal they arc commonly found, and less frequently of lead.† The ball generally lacerates the part very much, and a new deposit of bony matter is made that fills up all the interstices, encrusts the hollow, and leaves a dotted mottled mass extending many inches each way from the ball, and which completely spoils that part for any ornamental purpose.*
* I have retained the commonly received terms, African and Asiatic ivory, although the greater part of both kinds appears to come from Africa. Perhaps a more practical distinction would be for "African" ivory, transparent ivory; and for " Asiatic" ivory, opaque ivory. See foot note, p. 141.
† I have only heard of two golden bullets thus found, the one Mr. Fauntleroy says was cut through by a comb-maker in dividing a tooth, and was in the possession of his uncle: the other was found by Mr. Brain, its value was seventeen shillings.