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Elephant Hair Jewelry

A Brief Overview of the Amazing Evolution of Elephant Hair Jewelry

From bracelets to rings to even earrings, elephant hair used to be the raw product for a variety of jewelry. In this article, we give you an overview of jewelry made from this raw material.
Tulika Nair
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2017
Elephant hair jewelry! Does the concept seem slightly weird or did you think there is some form of typing error there? Well, you are erring on both accounts. Jewelry made from elephant hair has been around for several centuries now, and it holds a wide variety of meanings and associations. From the African myth of elephants being home to the soul of deceased tribal chiefs, to the Vietnamese belief that they are the symbols of romantic luck, products made from their hair are coveted for many reasons. Let us take a look at how the jewelry made from the wiry thick hair on the elephant's tail became this popular.
Jewelry Made from Elephant Hair
The use of elephant hair in making jewelry can be traced back thousands of years. From the continent of Africa to the continent of Asia, it was used all over the world. Its popularity rose after the British conquered and started their rule over many of these countries. Killing endangered animals like tigers and elephants became a sport to pass time and their bones, skins, and hair were used to make gifts that could be given to superiors and their families.
There are many legends associated with wearing this type of jewelry. According to 1200-year-old legend, wearing a bracelet made from this hair was believed to protect the wearer from any harm, misfortune, and even sickness. The four knots in the bracelet were supposed to be a symbol of the elements, water, fire, sun, and wind. The strands through the knots were symbolic of the different seasons. The movement of the knots with the wire that forms the basis of the bracelet was supposed to be a symbol of binding life's evolution with the different forces of nature. This bond is supposed to provide the wearer of the bracelet with strength. While traditionally these bracelets are made only of elephant hair, in modern times these bracelets are made by combining elephant hair with silver, gold, copper, and other precious metals.
Elephant hair is used not only to make bracelets, but you can also make jewelry like earrings, rings, and necklaces using the same. The four knots are sacred to the design and most craftsmen of the days of yore tried to inculcate this design in every jewelry that they made. Making bracelets from elephant hair was much easier than making rings (in which the hair needed to be embedded) or earrings. In fact even today, it is much easier to locate a bracelet made from elephant hair than to find any other piece of jewelry.
Cleaning jewelry made from elephant hair can often require to perfect a certain routine. You cannot clean it in the same way as normal jewelry because the knots may slide and cause damage to the hair. You can clean this jewelry by washing it by hand, but avoid using too much pressure as that may cause the hair to break. It is advisable to use normal shampoo or even dog shampoo, but never wash it in the washing machine in a wash cycle as that would cause damage to it beyond repair. Also, it is imperative that after you wash it with shampoo, use a conditioner on it and ensure that each strand of hair is conditioned well and that you wipe off any excess conditioner. Conditioning the hair ensures that the color is protected and maintained and that the hair does not dry and start splitting.
This type of jewelry is not very common anymore. This is more so because it is illegal to use elephant hair to make jewelry. Elephants are protected species and most products that you find in the market that use elephant hair are from animals that have been poached and hunted which makes it illegal to buy or sell them. While there are manufacturers in the market that deal in jewelry made of elephant hair, most of these products are antiques from a time long gone by. You cannot legally import products made from elephant hair into any country that is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty. But, if you still want to possess such a piece of jewelry, you can opt for one made of synthetic elephant hair while retaining the authentic look.
Every time you think of buying an authentic version, think of that poor animal who has been sacrificed for a few moments of compliments and happiness that you are going to enjoy. While a beautiful piece of jewelry, it is one that is scarred by a reality that you would not want to be guilty partaking of. Of course, if you like the look, you always have the option of buying a jewelry made of synthetic elephant hair.