Hippopotamus ivory teeth, upper denture on stand, England

1875-1910 in England

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Background: A71862, Lower denture of hippopotamus ivory, on stand. Foreground: A71861, Upper denture, hippopotamus
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Upper denture, hippopotamus ivory teeth, on ceramic stand

The best dentists produced fine work. These carefully carved dentures are made of hippopotamus ivory. This is denser than both elephant and walrus ivory. It is more hardwearing and appropriate for dental use. Ivory was difficult to clean. It deteriorated over time and smelt unpleasant. Only wealthy patients such as royalty and the upper classes could afford ivory dentures.

The porcelain display holders are carved with the motif of the Prince of Wales’ feathers. They are sometimes called Ruspini holders, after Bartholomew Ruspini (1728-1813). He trained as a dentist in France and moved to London in 1766. His patients included the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. The upper dentures (A71861) are pictured here with their lower denture partners (A71862).


Object Number:
ceramic (unspecified), china, complete and ivory
overall (teeth): 18 mm x 58 mm x 48 mm, 0.018 kg
overall (stand): 38 mm x 75 mm x 96 mm, 0.107 kg
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • furnishing and equipment
  • furnishing - artefact
  • furniture
Brown, H.C.

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