Just got this in my email, and thought I would share with Tumblr:
"Hello i have a tooth with Oliver on one side and St Lawrence on other side I seen on kovels site some years ago a tooth identical in appearance but different images i have hot pinned this one in end you can see the nerve ending i can see saw marks in cut edge cool to the touch I drilled to see if smelled like dentist (on bottom small spot). I’m in Canada, Ontario do you or can you give me your insight to this here is a pic thank you for anything you can tell me."
First off, thanks for the submission!
Now, as for your photos, what you have is a (real or replica) scrimshawed sperm whale tooth that was carved to commemorate Oliver Hazard Perry’s naval victory on Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
The ship, USS Lawrence (named after Captain James Lawrence who had been recently been killed while commanding the USS Chesapeake, and who uttered the now famous words “Don’t give up the ship,” before losing consciousness) was his first command ship during the battle, which was so badly shot-up by the British that it needed to be abandoned part way through the fight, and Perry was rowed to the Lawrence's sister ship, USS Niagara where he completed command of the battle that ultimately drove the British entirely from the lake and secured American control for the remainder of the war.
As a result, Perry was dubbed “The Hero of Lake Erie.” Perry died not long after in 1819 after contracting yellow fever on a diplomatic mission to Venezuela.
Now, as for your tooth, the really big question is whether it’s a genuine sperm whale tooth, or a reproduction. There are a few quick ways to check that don’t require doing any drilling or damaging the tooth at all:
- Take a look at the bottom, in particular the thickness of the tooth walls. Real sperm whale teeth tend to have fairly thin walls, and often with teeth this old, will have cracks along the edges. Thin walls and no cracks probably mean this is a reproduction.
- Also while looking at the bottom, what is the shape of the root cavity? Is it pointy or rounded? A real tooth cavity will be pointy, a fake one will be rounded.
- Also, I’m a little concerned about the amount of coloration at the top and bottom of the tooth, it’s very blotchy and thick, and the color of the patina matches the color of the ink used color the etching. Not a good sign for this being authentic.
There is a really good guide to spotting real vs. fake scrimshaw here: http://www.ebay.com/gds/Scrimshaw-vs-Fakeshaw-/10000000000914496/g.html it’s worth a read.
Regardless whether it’s real or not, it’s a very cool piece commemorating one of the most important turning points of the war. Nice find, and thanks for sharing!