We wear diamonds as adornments because they’re seemingly rare and take the earth a long time to form — but if you had the chance to add something even more rare, unique and well-formed, would you? What about a tooth? Gag if you must, or get curious — both are valid reactions to the idea of wearing a necklace of canines or a ring with a molar on it. The simple fact is, people throughout history have made jewelry from both their own teeth and the teeth of loved ones or others who hold special significance in their lives.
The Earliest Teeth Made into Jewelry
The earliest example of teeth made into jewelry that the world knows of is a recent discovery in what is now modern-day Turkey. Found in the area of the Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, the teeth are positively prehistoric, dating to between 6300 and 6700 BCE.
The find, consisting of two permanent premolars and a molar, show holes deliberately drilled into the roots and wear and tear consistent with the teeth having been worn and handled after they were removed from their owners — most likely after death, as they show no signs of decay or disease and prehistoric people most likely didn’t just go around pulling teeth out of their heads for no reason.
The find is rare — other artifacts from the settlement, thought to be one of the largest early cities, are mostly animal bone and rarely animal teeth. The three teeth pendants discovered by archaeologists represent a new mystery about the earliest humans who lived in Çatalhöyük and how they lived, loved and honored their dead.
Other Early Teeth Jewelry
The phenomenon of tooth jewelry isn’t limited to Turkey. The Aegean city of Dispilio, in what is modern-day Greece, also yielded tooth jewelry, though those artifacts are dated to a century — possibly two or three — after those found in Turkey. The Greek tooth pendant was a molar that was found in a bag, showing a hole drilled in it and similar wear patterns to those seen in the Turkish find.
Similarly, a pendant found in an excavation of a middle Neolithic site in northern Italy yielded a tooth pendant made from a molar, though the circumstances surrounding it suggest that the wearer and the original owner of the tooth were related or close to one another.
Indigenous cultures in Micronesia, Oceania and Polynesia have a rich cultural history of using human teeth as jewelry. Many of these cultures viewed wearing necklaces and jewelry made from the teeth of deceased loved ones as a norm — and one that kept their spirit and memory near for the wearer.
The Maori of New Zealand considered teeth to be such a sacred, special and rare material for their jewelry that they often crafted replicas from shells to wear if the actual teeth were inadequate or unavailable for use.
Teeth as Jewelry in Modern Times
For all the seemingly prim and proper conduct Victorian times are known for, some of the norms of the day appear downright bizarre when viewed through the lens of modern society. Mourning jewelry, or jewelry crafted from the hair and teeth of deceased loved ones, was commonplace. As industrialization took hold and the practice of long and public mourning periods phased out, the practice of using teeth as personal adornment faded.
Modern examples of jewelry made from teeth range from historical nods to the past, deeply and intimately personal and unique to edgy and avant garde. Independent artists and jewelers seek to create distinctive pieces using human teeth to make a statement or keep the wearer connected to their humanity or to loved ones. Mothers looking for personalized keepsakes, for example, may opt to have their child’s baby teeth mounted in resin or set in a ring.
Modern tooth jewelry isn’t just limited to pendants — rings, necklaces, ear gauges and earrings are just some of the ways artists and jewelers choose to work with this medium. Added to a setting of gems, coated in precious metals like gold, silver or platinum or left natural, tooth jewelry provokes a strong reaction — either favorable or unfavorable — from nearly anyone who sees it.
Would You Wear Your Tooth as a Necklace?
Times have certainly changed, and people now need teeth extracted for a variety of reasons. And modern medical science has made sure it’s done painlessly and effortlessly. Although the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur cannot mount your teeth onto a ring or turn it into a necklace, we’d be happy to assist you in getting a problem tooth out of your mouth — what you do with it after that is up to you. (But we’d be happy to dispose of it for you if tooth jewelry isn’t your thing!)
Whether you’re looking to have your wisdom teeth extracted to give your teeth enough space or you need a tooth extracted because of a cavity, sports injury or other accident, we’re here to help. Simply give us a call at (201) 560-0606 to book your appointment. You can also secure your spot via email by clicking here — someone will get back to you to set up your time.
Because every person is different, we take great care to make sure your treatment plan is unique to you — yes, even if you need an extraction and want to make a pendant out of the tooth we remove. We can’t wait to see you in our chair!