How to Clean Asian Bone Carvings

Written by jessica jewell
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How to Clean Asian Bone Carvings
Bone art carvings take many forms, and have been polished by the natural oils of hands touching the carvings throughout the years. (safe box made in bone image by JoLin from

Bone carving was an art used by many ancient cultures. Asian bone carvings are carvings that use animal bones. They are porous and generally smooth and, depending on the age and history of the piece, can vary in colour and condition. When you acquire an Asian bone carving, you should not consider improving its condition by cleaning it in a traditional sense, which could actually damage the carving. Instead, implement techniques to polish and smooth the bone carving, restoring its condition as a treasured antique.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Polishing rag
  • Buffing rag
  • Soft cloth
  • Vinegar

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  1. 1

    Polish and buff the bone carving with a clean, soft cloth or a buffing cloth. You can purchase a buffing cloth at any jewellery store. Patiently rub the carving with the cloth in small, circular movements.

  2. 2

    Dip a clean rag into a water and vinegar solution. Gently rub areas of the carving that are soiled with dirt.

  3. 3

    Rinse the area by dipping a clean part of the cloth into warm, distilled water. As soon as you rinse it, immediately go over it again with a dry cloth so that it dries quickly. Do not run water over the piece of splash the piece to rinse it.

Tips and warnings

  • Remember that polished bone was made smooth by more than hundred -- and sometimes even thousands -- of years of people handling the piece. The natural oils from hands touching and working the bone is what makes the bone smooth and what gives it its antique colour. While it is good to restore the carving's shine, don't try to clean or strip away the colour that makes it an antique piece, which also makes it historically financially valuable.
  • Never clean a bone carving with jewellery cleaner, chemical cleaner, soap, household cleaner or solvent-based product. They are too caustic for bone carvings and can damage the piece.

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