Is it Ivory or Elfhie? (India)


Priyanka Golikeri, Daily News & Analysis

Date Published
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Resembling ivory, a mineral composite gains traction in ethical luxury jewellery

Imagine an exquisite collection of pendants, earrings and necklaces crafted from an ivory lookalike and beautifully framed within white, yellow and rose gold settings, and accentuated by sparkling diamonds, blue sapphires, red rubies and pink tourmalines?

Well…if the ivory lookalike leaves you guessing, considering the ban on elephant ivory, rest assured it’s not the original ivory poached from endangered male elephants, but a patented mineral-based composite, bearing an almost 89% closeness to elephant ivory in terms of colour, texture, composition and durability. Adorning oneself with jewellery crafted from this mineral composite ‘elfhie’ gives the feel of wearing a piece crafted from ivory, with its whiteness, depth and lustre.

Ivory has been a hotly debated topic in international jewellery circles. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where India is a signatory, ivory trade is banned. Called as ‘white gold’ for the erstwhile prestige it held in jewellery making, ivory is now looked down upon due to the threat it holds for the African elephant. Estimates suggest that from over 1.3 million in 1979, this species today stands at a mere 4 lakhs. Moreover, in any given year, over 35, 000 – 40,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory, most of which is illegally sold in China, where the price stands at $730 per kilogramme.

Experts feel in India, where ivory jewellery once upon a time was the domain of the rich, the lookalike mineral composite will have a chief role to play. The gems and jewellery sector is highly significant to the Indian economy, contributing about six to seven percent of the GDP.

“Jewellery made using this mineral composite elfhie is affordable, looks stunning, it provides jobs to craftsmen and grants an alternative to ivory,” says Shreyas V Cotha, director, C Krishniah Chetty Group of Jewellers.

Though an apple-to-apple price comparison with ivory jewellery is not possible considering it’s long been banned, a pair of diamond earrings crafted from ‘elfhie’ that are set in white and rose gold can command about Rs1.3 lakhs. While a pendant made using elfhie, having diamonds and rubellite and set in white gold, can cost Rs 60,000.

According to luxury jewellery connoisseur Anisha VK, an alternative to ivory in the form of a mineral composite is certainly a good bet for anyone who appreciates fine jewellery collections. “Wearing a pair of earrings made from the ivory lookalike costs less in the pocket and makes the wearer feel responsible towards the environment and wildlife.”

Says Cotha, “Elfhie is increasing its footprint. We are a proud partner in introducing the material, which is manufactured in Europe, to our market.”