Ivory is a term used to describe tusks of large teeth from a number of species, the most common being the elephant. As ivory is derived from animals, it is regulated based on many factors, including species, age, and whether it is carved or raw. For example, ivory from African and Asian elephants fall under different laws and regulations governing their sale because the Asian variety is closer to extinction.
In China, Ivory is prized as a material for being both hard and durable, but also easy to carve, and therefore allows very intricate carving. Craftsmen can take ivory and use it to show off their abilities at carving, as evidenced by the multi-layered puzzle balls above. Puzzle balls can have up to 15 layers hidden within their outer shell.
Also popular in China from as early as the Ming dynasty were ivory figural carvings of deities, a tradition that has lasted and has now expanded to include female beauties, or the emperor or empress.