Difference Between Ivory and Plastic

Deciphering the material from which an object is made is quite a difficult task. Especially for those who do not deal with such situations regularly. Considering how corrupt dealers and sellers can be at times, it is always a good thing to be informed about materials. Ivory and plastic are two such materials that are used for various purposes. However, there are numerous differences between the two.

Ivory vs Plastic

The main difference between ivory and plastic is that ivory is a relatively coarser material that feels cold when touched whereas plastic is a smooth material that is warm to touch. A popular method to decipher the two is by poking each of them with a hot needle. While the needle will not be able to penetrate through ivory, it will melt the plastic very easily.

Ivory vs Plastic

Ivory is a material obtained from the tusks and teeth of various mammals. It is white in colour and has a coarse texture. The material contains tissue that has been calcified along with cementum, pulp, and enamel. This physical property is termed dentine, which is present in all ivory products.

Meanwhile, plastic is a synthetic material that is made using polymers. In its original form, it is somewhat opaque and has a smooth texture. The material is lightweight and flexible, unlike ivory. However, it is infamous for causing various environmental problems as the material cannot decompose easily and stays in the environment for a very long time.

Comparison Table Between Ivory and Plastic

Parameters of ComparisonIvoryPlastic
MeaningIvory is a material obtained from the dentine tusks and teeth of animals.Plastic is a synthetic material that is made using polymers.
AppearanceIt is white in colour.It is somewhat opaque.
TextureIt has a relatively coarse texture.It has a smooth texture.
PropertiesIt is heavyweight and not flexible.It is lightweight and flexible.
ControversyThe use of this material leads to a decline in the population of certain animals.The material is not decomposable and causes various environmental issues.

What is Ivory?

Ivory is a hard material obtained from the teeth and tusks of various mammals. These are white in colour and specifically contain dentine. The texture of this material is coarse, but it can be carved easily. For this purpose, the tusks and teeth need to be considerably large in the first place. However, they do lack flexibility and are quite heavyweight.

The material has been around for quite a long time. In ancient history, it was used to make objects such as dominoes, piano keys, fans, and even false teeth. Then, the traditional source for ivory were the tusks of elephants. However, animals including the mammoth, hippopotamus, walrus, warthog, narwhal, sperm whale and killer whale were also hunted later on for this purpose.

The earliest known ivory objects were known to be in use in the Indus Valley civilization. Sticks, hooks, pins, combs and even dices were made out of the material. However, nowadays, ivory surrounds a lot of controversies.

There has been a huge decline in the population of animals that have ivory. This is because they are recklessly hunted and poached for the material. African and Asian elephants have become threatened species because of this trade. Due to this, the killing of such threatened animals is illegal.

What is Plastic?

Plastic is a synthetic material that is made using polymer. It is a lightweight and flexible material that can be pressed and shaped to create many objects. The texture of this material is smooth, and its appearance is somewhat opaque when in its original form. It is widely popular across the world because of its long-lasting nature and durability.

The first plastic was synthesised back in 1907 and was called Bakelite. Later, various versions of the material such as polythene were produced. It was used to package various things and even for making pipes, furniture, and toys.

However, this material poses a genuine threat to the environment. Since it takes years and years for it to decompose, it sticks around in the environment and causes plastic pollution. It fills up landfills excessively and blocks a lot of water bodies. Most oceans have garbage patches filled with plastic. This affects the organisms living in the water on a major scale.

The material contaminates ecosystems and harms land animals as they sometimes eat it out of garbage disposals by mistake. Due to this, the industries producing plastic began promoting the idea of recycling it. However, the problem is still far from solved.

Main Differences Between Ivory and Plastic

  1. Ivory is a material obtained from the dentine tusks and teeth of animals whereas plastic is a synthetic material that is made using polymers.
  2. Ivory is white in colour whereas plastic is somewhat opaque.
  3. Ivory has a relatively coarse texture whereas plastic has a smooth texture.
  4. Ivory is heavyweight and not flexible whereas plastic is lightweight and flexible.
  5. The use of ivory leads to a decline in the population of certain animals whereas plastic is not decomposable and causes various environmental issues.
Difference Between Ivory and Plastic


Ivory and plastic are two materials that are widely available and used across the world. Even though they have many controversies surrounding them, they continue to be sold in various places. However, many traders and shopkeepers often cheat customers by selling the wrong material. For this, it is important to know the difference between the two.

Firstly, ivory is obtained from the dentine tusks and teeth of various mammals. It is a natural material. On the other hand, plastic is made out of polymers and is completely synthetic. While ivory is white in colour, plastic tends to be somewhat opaque. Moreover, ivory has a coarse texture while plastic is very smooth.

Another major difference is that ivory tends to feel cool when touched. Meanwhile, plastic gives off a warm feeling. A popular method for testing the two materials is by passing a hot needle through them. Ivory tends to remain hard and not melt in such a situation. However, plastic melts easily when it comes in contact with the needle.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/environmental-conservation/article/ivorytrade-and-elephant-conservation/11AA17383DA8020753C862F226151F88
  2. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rstb.2009.0054
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