Many people struggling with grief cling to mementos of their loved ones. This usually includes photos, articles of clothing, jewelry, old letters, and objects that were precious to the deceased, like a musical instrument or a stuffed animal. Now, there’s a new keepsake option but beware, it’s quite macabre: jewelry made from teeth.
Creating Jewelry Made from Teeth
Jacqui from Melbourne, Australia, has been called a “serial killer,” a “grave robber,” and even “Ted Bundy’s Jeweler” by those appalled at her distinctive approach to jewelry-making. Her business, Grave Metallum Jewelry, deals with teeth, ashes, fur, hair, and bones of deceased people to make tokens their loved ones could wear.
The 27-year-old always enjoyed the process of making jewelry, but her unique service was inspired by the sudden death of her best friend. Soon after, she began experimenting with jewelry made from teeth and other elements of the deceased.
“Creating something elegant with the macabre was my new obsession,” she said. “While dealing with the grief of my loss, my fascination with death and how we deal with death grew.”
However, not all customers are bereaved. For instance, Jacqui said, “A friend handed me three of her teeth and asked me to create a necklace.”
Additionally, one customer from the United States commissioned a ring to propose to his girlfriend. He sent his own tooth that had been removed during a dental procedure.
“They wanted us to use his tooth so she can always take a part of him with her everywhere,” she said. “They also have an interest in oddities.”
She fashioned a dramatic-looking ring surrounded by black gemstones with the tooth in the center. “They were over the moon about the ring when they finally received it,” she recalled.
Jacqui receives a lot of praise for her work, but she’s also met with controversy about the unsettling nature of her pieces.
“Some people love it, some people hate it, but controversy helps you question your normal,” she said. “I have had the joy of helping other people deal with their grief.” 
The United States has banned ivory, but that doesn’t stop people from illegally killing elephants for their tusks. This is inspired designer Lucie Majerus from Luxembourg to create the project Human Ivory. While Jacqui focuses on creating jewelry as mementos of dead loved ones, Majerus views human teeth as a replacement for animal ivory. To do so, she polishes and shaves down the teeth to resemble pearls.
“When I lost my own wisdom teeth, I kept them and came up with the idea of Human Ivory,” she says. “Why wouldn’t we value our own material instead of the precious material from other species?”
For her first experiment, she turned her wisdom teeth into a ring. Then she asked her dentist for teeth unwanted by the patients. (These teeth are usually sent to dentistry schools.) She bleaches and polishes the teeth until they are smooth and glossy. This helps remove some of the icky feelings of wearing teeth. Additionally, many people won’t tell that the “stones” are teeth unless they look closely.
However, many people dislike the idea, associating jewelry made from teeth with cannibalism. But many people gravitated to her work.
“Surprisingly, most people aren’t creeped out by the sight of the jewelry, but really like the idea,” Majerus says. “Some regret that they didn’t keep their tooth at the dentist and some, who will have teeth taken out soon, are now looking forward to it.”
She uses teeth to create rings, tie pins, cufflinks, and other pieces of jewelry. 
The Ancient Tradition of Teeth Jewelry
This isn’t the first time people turned teeth into bracelets and necklaces. In Turkey 2019, archeologists found three human teeth worn in jewelry from 8,500 years ago. The practice of making pieces from teeth was never documented before in this area.
“Not only had the two teeth been drilled with a conically shaped microdrill similar to those used for creating the vast amounts of beads from animal bone and stone that we have found at the site, but they also showed signs of wear corresponding to extensive use as ornaments in a necklace or bracelet,” said Scott Haddow, University of Copenhagen archaeologist.
“The evidence suggests that the two teeth pendants were probably extracted from two mature individuals post-mortem. The wear on the teeth’ chewing surfaces indicates that the individuals would have been between 30–50 years old. And since neither tooth seems to have been diseased-which would likely have caused the tooth to fall out during life, the most likely scenario is that both teeth were taken from skulls at the site.” 
It seems that humanity always had those who enjoyed the macabre. If you’re interested in jewelry made from teeth, don’t let the naysayers stop you. After all, you may be carrying on an ancient tradition.
- “This engagement ring is filled with someone else’s tooth.” News Australia. Rian Dutrom. July 16, 2019
- “Jewelry Made Of Human Teeth? It’s Not As Gross As It Sounds.” Fast Company. Katharine Schwab. October 28, 2016
- “Human teeth used as jewellery in Turkey 8,500 years ago.” Science Daily. University of Copenhagen. December 13, 2019