Bull Skull Pendant of 20K & 24K Gold and Mammoth Ivory

This is a recent piece of mine which was commissioned as a special birthday present. The recipient is a Taurus, and a fan of western themed jewellery, so her husband conceived of the idea of a gold pendant based on a bull skull, with horns made of mammoth ivory from the Klondike goldfields.

Bull Skull Pendant fabricated of 20K & 24K gold and mammoth ivory
Bull Skull Pendant fabricated of 20K & 24K gold and mammoth ivory

In my research for the project I learned that there is an art form based on carving bleached out bull and buffalo skulls. The artists carve out intricate pierced designs, effectively turning the skull into lace made of bone.

I liked the idea of incorporating the bone lace concept into this piece, both to add interest to the gold skull shape and to visually lighten the piece. I first cut out the skull shape from a piece of 20K gold sheet I had made, then I cut out the diamond shape from the centre of the skull. I made a 24K gold filigree insert and soldered into the opening.

24K gold filigree detail
24K gold filigree detail

I made outlines for the nostrils and eye sockets of 20K gold wire and soldered them into place. I bent and forged the skull to make it more three-dimensional. I fashioned a 20K bail so the piece can be worn as a pendant.

The horns are made of locally found mammoth ivory. Because the Klondike area was not glaciated in the last ice age, this area was a refuge for animals 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. Tusks from woolly mammoths are sometimes found in the gravel by placer gold miners.

bulls horn made of mammoth ivory
bulls horn made of mammoth ivory

I took a slice of a piece of tusk and cut out the horn shapes. I rounded the ivory into a curved shape and polished it using progressively finer grit sanding medium. I set the mammoth ivory horns in 20K open-ended bezels. You can see a cross-hatched pattern on the ivory – this is the natural grain of the ivory.

I strung the pendant on a leather thong, and finished the slip knots on the ends with two small mammoth ivory beads.

This was a fun project to design and make!  I really enjoy working with a client’s idea and turning it into reality. If you would like to discuss a potential project with me, please feel free to contact me via email at leslie@fortymilegoldworkshop.ca

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