How Did Wisdom Tooth Jewelry Become a Thing?

For all the years we’ve been blogging, we’ve never encountered a story about a wisdom tooth being used for jewelry. Then, within the course of a week, there were two.

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First, we learned about the California man whose romantic Halloween marriage proposal featured an engagement ring set — not with a traditional diamond — but with his own wisdom tooth. Then, on Saturday, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo posted to Instagram a photo of her latest piece of jewelry — a recently extracted wisdom tooth mounted as a pendant.

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While some might see the wisdom tooth as a novel jewelry idea, others might think this unusual precious-stone substitute borders on the grotesque.

In California, Lucas Ungar delighted his girlfriend Carlee Leifkes when he presented her with a wisdom tooth engagement ring on Halloween. The 23-year-old Ungar had the tooth extracted when he was 17. Last Monday, their story was picked up by BuzzFeed.com and grew viral overnight. The Huffington Post did a followup on Wednesday, and that same evening the couple became the subject of a spot on CNN by national news correspondent Jeanne Moos.

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Moos reported that Leifkes loved the idea that something on her finger grew inside her fiancé’s body. “Yeah, and I’m happy I get to wear that every day,” Leifkes told CNN.

“Nobody will have this ring because it’s a piece of him,” she told The Huffington Post. “No two people are the same — same goes for our ring!”

Leifkes clarified that the tooth had been professionally cleaned and coated before it was set in the ring. It also seems as if the root stem has been sliced off, leaving only the crown of the tooth, which is set with four prongs.

From a jeweler’s perspective, however, the concept of a wisdom tooth center stone is fraught with potential problems. Certainly tooth enamel is a durable substance, but it has a Mohs hardness rating of only 5 — on par with turquoise or opal, two of the softer precious gemstones.

In fact, enamel is much softer than the more traditional bridal gems, such as diamond (10 on the Mohs scale), sapphire (9) or ruby (9). Also, the enamel accounts for only the surface of the tooth. The interior is made from dentin, which has a hardness of only 3-4. The bottom line is that, although it’s an avant-garde idea, a tooth center stone is relatively soft, brittle and — when worn everyday as an engagement ring — will probably not last very long.

Prinsloo’s wisdom tooth jewelry should have a more successful outcome, because it will be worn as a pendant and will be free from the daily wear and tear normally encountered by a ring.

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Instagram followers of Prinsloo may remember a series of Instagram posts from August when the model and wife of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was recovering from a painful tooth extraction. She also shared a comical video of her singing The Weeknd’s hit, “I Can’t Feel My Face.” In both the photo and video, she seems to be under the influence of pain killers and has an ice pack wrapped around her face.

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On Saturday, the 26-year-old Prinsloo was back on Instagram, proudly showing off her newest bling to 2.6 million followers. “I dipped my wisdom in gold [smiley face emoji] #boom,” Prinsloo wrote alongside a photo of her gold-plated tooth necklace. The crown of the tooth remains natural, but the root is plated in gold.

The Instagram post generated more than 1,200 comments within 24 hours. Most of them seemed to be in support of Prinsloo’ vision, while others voiced their disgust. Instagram user daniellatello decided to sit on the fence: “So gross yet so cool,” she wrote.

Prinsloo will be a featured model at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which will air on December 8 on CBS.

Credits: Carlee Leifkes; Instagram/BahatiPrinsloo. Instagram/AdamLevine.

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