It’s not at all unusual to tell someone that they have a beautiful smile. We are perfectly comfortable with the idea of teeth being aesthetically pleasing in the context of someone’s mouth. But do you think of teeth being beautiful out of context, too?

Artist Lucie Majerus does. Her recent project “Human Ivory” challenges viewers to look at teeth in a way we usually don’t: As jewelry.

Dressed To the Teeth

Majerus was inspired by the use of ivory, which is banned substance in the United States and comes at the expense of elephants’ lives. Elephant tusks have a particular softness and lack the enamel that makes other forms of ivory, such as that of walruses, rhinoceri, and narwhals, less valuable. In fact, slaughterhouses throw away thousands of cow and pig teeth that are perfectly good sources of small pieces of ivory.

Majerus questioned why we find the ivory of some species so valuable, but discard our own willingly shed sources of the material — human teeth.

Jewelry made of teeth
Photo: Matan Bellemakers

In response, she created a line of jewelry using discarded teeth. She carves the teeth into “pearls” to disguise the source of the material, and then incorporates them into jewelry like any other bead. First, she worked with her own wisdom teeth, and then with unwanted teeth from a nearby dentistry school. Now, she takes commissions, so that you can have your own discarded teeth back in a new form.

Majerus isn’t the only one working with “human ivory.” Australian silversmith Polly van der Glas has created her own jewelry line featuring human teeth, and there are a number of creators on Etsy offering similar wares. Interestingly, most of the teeth are left in their original shape, roots and all. For these pieces, there is something of the macabre to their appeal.

Wear Your Own Beautiful Smile

While you could wear your beautiful smile around your neck or on your fingers, you probably prefer to wear it in your mouth first! Despite the creativity of artists, there’s no replacement for the beauty of a bright, natural-looking smile. And while you might have a go-to accessory like a string of pearls, you’re not going to wear it everywhere–unless you’re Marge Simpson. But your smile you will bring with you for every occasion.

Whether your smile just needs a little bit of brightening, or if you’d prefer a complete smile makeover, Dr. Michael L Weinstock is ready to give you the beautiful smile you dream of. Call (407) 834-6446 to make an appointment to talk about your options. And if any teeth have to come out in the process, well… Lucie Majerus can make you some lovely accessories!