Ivory is a banned substance in the United States, but thousands of elephants are routinely killed for their tusks—which are prized for their texture and softness, free of the enamel that covers most teeth.
On view at this year's Dutch Design Week, Majerus's Design Academy Eindhoven project is exactly what it sounds like. Majerus uses human teeth to create jewelry that is similar in appearance to pearls. "When I lost my own wisdom teeth, I kept them and came up with the idea of Human Ivory," she says. "Why wouldn’t we value our own material instead of the precious material from other species?"
Her wisdom teeth became a ring, and Majerus asked her dentist to collect some unwanted teeth for her next experiments. (The dentist normally donates unwanted teeth to dentistry schools, since unsurprisingly most people don't ask to keep their pulled teeth.) Two of her teachers at Eindhoven also donated their lost teeth. To turn these old teeth, Majerus bleaches and then polishes them into smooth, glossy "pearls." This transformative process takes away some of the "ick" factor, and the shape and sheen is familiar enough for many to look beyond the material itself.
Majerus says that few participants have been put off by the thought of wearing human teeth as jewelry—a practice one might associate with cannibalism. "Surprisingly, most people aren’t creeped out by the sight of the jewelry, but really like the idea," Majerus says. "Some regret that they didn’t keep their tooth at the dentist and some, who will have teeth taken out soon, are now looking forward to it."
Majerus is now taking commissions to transform lost teeth into rings, tie pins, cufflinks and more. Talk about personalized jewelry.