Shark tooth necklaces have been worn for centuries. They are not only a popular fashion statement, but also hold symbolic meaning and have played the leading part in many myths.
Sharks have lived for 400M years and have evolved into the ultimate ocean predator. Sharks are distributed all across the planet from cold to warm waters, from the shallows to the abyss, from coastal waters to the open ocean. Even though sharks are all over they have become subjects of fear and fascination and can still be seen as mythical creatures. Ultimately they symbolize strength, grace and power and this might be why we are so drawn to sharks and their teeth.
What is special about shark teeth?
Sharks are elasmobranches, meaning their skeleton is made from cartilage. Thereby the only part of the shark that can fossilize is the shark’s teeth. For instance the only way we can learn about the ancient legendary Megalodon is from the fossilized teeth that have been found.
It takes a over 10,000 years for a shark tooth to fossil, so shark teeth can be found laying on the sand bottom or washed ashore. This makes it an attractive material for embellishment since it won’t deteriorate. Historically shark teeth have been used as tools due to the durability of shark teeth. They have been used as kitchen tools and weapons in Hawaii, long before they were fashionable.
What does a shark tooth necklace symbolize?
Shark teeth have long been seen as a symbol of manhood and masculinity. The masculine accessory was first adapted by surfers, in the 60’ies. In the 70’ies shark tooth necklaces and other shark tooth jewelry boomed after the famous Steven Spielberg movie Jaws. Many surfers were also inspired by Hawaiian and Polynesian culture where shark teeth were used as protection when going into the ocean. Hawaiian myths say that wearing a shark tooth when in the ocean will prevent you from shark bites, so the shark teeth were not only used as a fashion accessory, but as protecting talismans as well. When going to sea by ship, the ship could also be decorated with a shark tooth to bring good fortune and to protect against evil seas. Some sailors also wear shark tooth necklaces for protection against drowning.
In Hawaiian culture, ancestors (Aumakua) can emerge as sharks and shark tooth necklaces can be worn to honor family members that are no longer here.
Today shark tooth necklaces are still seen in the surf culture. Women have also adapted the shark tooth trend as well and it is today a bohemian fashion statement. Today there are many different shark tooth jewelry on the market. Modern metal shark tooth necklaces can be (but are not always) produced without real teeth, but can be casts in gold, silver and other metals and materials. Others still make jewelry of real shark teeth. Real shark tooth jewelry can often be found in seaside holiday destinations, which unfortunately often are very unethical and supports the shark tooth trade. Which leads us to the next big question:
Are shark tooth necklaces ethical?
Shark tooth necklaces can be ethical, but you have to be very aware when buying shark tooth jewelry. If the tooth is a real tooth, that is not fossilized, the chances that it is coming from unethical sources are really high. Shark tooth jewelry seen in little booths and seaside shops, when on vacation, are most likely coming from sharks that have been killed for their teeth. Real shark teeth jewelry can be ethical though if found during a dive or found at the beach, but since shark teeth aren’t washing ashore in vast numbers, they can be difficult to find naturally. Many seaside shops claim that their shark teeth are ethical, but that is very unlikely. Therefore it is recommended not to purchase already made jewelry with real shark teeth, but to, if you are lucky enough to find a shark tooth, have it made in to a piece of jewelry then. There are even many jewelry companies that buy vast numbers of shark teeth and gold dip the top and make it into a shark tooth necklace. Be aware where these companies get their shark teeth from, these shark teeth may also be purchased in large quantities and will thereby come from sharks that were killed for their teeth.
Unfortunately the shark tooth trade is one place to put some guilt of the declining shark populations around the world. Sharks are being killed for their fins, teeth, liver and skin and shark can be found in many more products than you would think. Sharks are an extremely important part of ocean ecosystems. They remove sick and injured fish from the sea and keep order in the ocean and on the reefs.
When purchasing a shark tooth necklace you have to be aware of the materials of the necklace. Some use real teeth and plate them completely with a metal. As mentioned above, this is often unethical since most of these teeth come from sharks that were killed for their teeth. Be aware if the shark tooth pendants are a cast of a tooth and metal filled or if the pendant is a real plated tooth.
How do you tell if a shark tooth is real?
The main extinguishment between a real and a replicated shark tooth is that the real came from a living shark and the replicates are produced. Shark teeth are made of calcium phosphate a very strong material. Replicated shark teeth are often made of plastic, metal, porcelain etc. Real shark teeth have small grooves and imperfections and the color is not always even, where replicated are often made smooth, flawless and are completely white (plastic and porcelain) or don’t have staining in color.
Real teeth can feel cooler that replicated teeth (depending on the material though). There are different types of shark teeth, so be sure to research which type of shark tooth jewelry you are looking for and learn to distinguish between the different teeth’s features to see if it is real or replicated.
Should I buy a shark tooth necklace?
When you have looked up the origin and material of a shark tooth necklace, and made sure that it is not a real tooth coming from unethical sources, you can easily purchase a shark tooth necklace. Shark tooth necklaces are perfect for a bohemian, beach style and are a strong fashion statement. Celebrities like Rihanna, Mila Kunis and Jessica Alba are some of the celebrities who have been seen wearing shark tooth necklaces.
The story of our gold shark tooth necklace
Our founder Amalie love sharks. At the office we call her Shark Lady. A few years back, before founding VANDAYA, she worked with shark conservation in Fiji, where she studied bull sharks. On one of her dives to “shark reef” in Beqa Lagoon, where she would see and study the behavior of the bull sharks in the area, she was lucky enough to find a beautiful medium sized bull shark tooth, lying on the sandy bottom of the reef. Amalie brought the tooth back to the surface to have a closer look. It came back with Amalie all the way to Denmark, to be a memory of her work with the bull sharks and was lying in her jewelry box for a while. When founding VANDAYA, Amalie knew right away that her first found bull shark tooth should be eternally made into a necklace, an ethical shark tooth necklace. With the tooth, she made a mold that forever can be filled with gold. With this necklace Amalie and team VANDAYA hope that it can help change the image of sharks from animals that are feared to animals that are perceived as elegant, strong and an important part of a healthy ocean. We wanted to create a shark tooth necklace that would be the symbol of ocean lovers, ocean protectors and ocean people.
Please note: At VANDAYA we love sharks. We design nature inspired jewelry and especially find a lot of our inspiration from the ocean. Our biggest passion besides creating beautiful, lasting jewelry, is giving back to the ocean. By this post we do not support all shark tooth necklaces, we will try to educate on how to distinguish between ethical and unethical shark tooth necklaces and jewelry, so that you don’t end up purchasing jewelry that will harm sharks. We are only for protecting sharks and honoring these beautiful ocean predators.
Xo Amalie & Team VANDAYA