Mammoths are extinct herbivorous mammals that had long, dense hair and underfur, very long tusks, a long nose, large ears, and lived throughout the world. There were at least four mammoth species that lived from about 2 million years ago to 9,000 years ago, millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct. They are closely related to modern-day Indian elephants (they have common ancestor) and evolved during the same period. Mammoths died out while the elephant's ancestor did not--we do not know why.
Mammoth tusks grew in a variety of shapes, some were straight, some were curved; the longest were up to 13 feet (4 m) long and weighed hundreds of pounds. The tusks were used in mating rituals, for protection, and for digging in the snow for food. Much of our knowledge of mammoths is from cave drawings and from mummified mammoths found in Siberian ice. Mammoths had longer tusks than Mastodons another elephant-like animal that evolved during the same period.
Today mammoth ivory is found during mining operations, in areas with glacial activity, as a result of erosion, and during deep-sea fishing operations. Generally, only ivory that has been in the permafrost in the far north (and therefore not subject to freezing and thawing) is suitable for use. Mammoth ivory is used for carving, to make jewelry, knife handles, and pistol grips.
The outer surface of mammoth tusks is called bark ivory (like the bark on a tree). This outer ivory will occasionally have lines in its surface (called bark lines) and represent the normal wear on the outer ivory from the animal using the tusk. Custom Grips & Knives uses only stable bark ivory to make our grips.
Mammoth bark ivory grips vary greatly in cost depending upon the color and quality of the bark. Color variations come from the ivory absorbing and reacting to minerals in the soil where it was buried. Blue, green, red, and black bark ivory is rarer and notably more expensive than the browns and creams and therefore the grips will cost more. Red is the most rare (the color come from being buried in soil containing gold chloride) and as a result the most expensive. Black comes from permanganate in the soil and the Blues and Greens come from copper in the soil. The tusk section shown here has bark ivory that has turned blue from the ivory reacting to copper compounds. You can also see the (unfortunately common) separation of the ivory layers. This separation significantly reduces the yield from the tusk.
I have ocassionally seen metal leached into the ivory. Gas spectrum analysis of one tusk with obvious metal bonded to the ivory showed that it was an aluminum compound--surprising.
The mammoth ivory we use in our grips comes from extreme northern areas where the tusks have remained frozen since the animal died. This ivory is not fossilized, but essentially remains in its original state. We never use fossilized ivory (which means turned to stone) and I do not believe we could use fossil ivory to make grips, although we've never tried. You'll sometimes see fossil ivory from the North Sea and Florida rivers for sale on eBay; however, this material is not suitable for use.
We also make grips of interior mammoth ivory. Grips made of "interior" mammoth are less expensive than grips made from the outer ivory or bark because there is more of this material in the tusk. Interior mammoth grips will have color variations from white to cream to chocolate brown and often has exceptional grain.
I once had an individual take me to task because we were selling grips made from mammoth ivory. The individual was concerned because he thought mammoths were "endangered." There are no legal restrictions on the international trade in mammoth ivory.