How to Find Out If Dominoes Are Made of Ivory

Written by john grossman
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How to Find Out If Dominoes Are Made of Ivory
Checking if ivory is real can be done using only basic equipment. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Genuine ivory dominoes are much more valuable than ones made of plastic or resin. Unfortunately, ivory reproductions and imitations are usually so convincing that it can be difficult to know the exact material used in the dominoes' manufacture. Using only common household items, it is, however, possible to detect materials designed to imitate the look and feel of genuine ivory.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Magnifying glass
  • Black light
  • Cotton swab
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Pin
  • Lighter

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  1. 1

    Examine the domino using the magnifying glass. Ivory comes from the natural tooth of an elephant. As on a human tooth, it is possible to see tiny striations on the surface of the domino if it is made of genuine ivory. If the surface is completely smooth, the domino is probably not made from ivory.

  2. 2

    Shine the black light on the surface of the domino. If it is indeed made of ivory, it will reflect a bright white light. If it is actually made of resin or plastic, it will look dull under the ultraviolet light.

  3. 3

    Dip the cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and gently rub it on a small area of the domino. If the material is ivory, your cotton swab will remain white, whereas if the domino has been painted in order to give it the appearance of ivory, some of the paint will end up on the swab.

  4. 4

    Heat the pin in the flame of the lighter until it is red hot, and then place the tip of the pin on the back of the domino or on another inconspicuous area. If the domino is actually made of resin or plastic, part of the surface will melt and emit a strong smell of burning plastic. If the ivory domino is genuine, it will not melt, but a small black spot may appear on the surface.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult a reputable ivory appraiser if you still have doubts about the authenticity of your ivory dominoes.
  • Only perform the hot pin test as a last resort and on an inconspicuous area, since it can damage even genuine ivory dominoes.

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