Inside the Fascinating World of Bone and Horn Artisans in the State of Mexico

Discover the ancient craft of bone and horn carving in the State of Mexico, where artisans create beautiful and practical objects from beef bone and horn. From combs and pins to elaborate engravings and chess sets, this unique craft continues to captivate and impress.

Inside the Fascinating World of Bone and Horn Artisans in the State of Mexico
A stunning chess set.

Bone and horn carving is an ancient practice that has been carried out by human beings for thousands of years. Nowadays, it is still a craft that is valued for its beauty and practicality. In the State of Mexico, artisans are working in this branch in the towns of Rayón, San Antonio la Isla, and even in the populous municipality of Nezahualcóyotl.

The Raw Material: Beef Bone and Horn

One of the defining features of this craft is the raw material used: beef bone and horn. These materials have been used by humans for centuries, and they continue to be used today by artisans who transform them into beautiful and useful objects.

Domestic Objects

Bone and horn carving are used to create simple objects for domestic needs, such as combs and pins, which are highly valued by women for their beauty and durability. These objects can be combined with other materials, such as crocodiles and mermaid scales, to create a stunning visual effect.

Buttons for Charrería

Another use of bone and horn carving is to create buttons for the charrería, a traditional Mexican horse-riding sport. The different modalities of the charro's clothing tend to be luxurious, and the ivory buttons created by bone and horn artisans are a perfect fit for this aesthetic.


The skill and inventiveness of bone and horn artisans are evident in their elaborate engravings, which can feature motifs of animals, plants, human or religious figures, and more. These engravings are often so tiny that they require a magnifying glass to fully appreciate, and their creation requires not only talent but also time.

Chess Sets

One of the most impressive achievements of bone and horn carving is the creation of chess sets. These sets feature a fine assembly of wood and bone that is an invitation to play, but also a display of exceptional craftsmanship. While these sets are not mass-produced due to the time and effort required to create them, they are highly valued by collectors and enthusiasts.

The Development of Bone and Horn Carving

The development of bone and horn carving in the State of Mexico is a result of migration, both from other parts of Mexico and internal migration within the state. While certain branches of bone and horn carving have a century-old tradition in specific areas, the recent naturalization of this craft in different localities has allowed for the continuation of this ancient practice.


Bone and horn carving is a craft that has stood the test of time, and the artisans of the State of Mexico are carrying on this tradition with skill and inventiveness. From simple domestic objects to elaborate engravings and chess sets, bone and horn carving continues to captivate and impress with its beauty and practicality.

Sources: In-Text Citation: Artesanía Mexiquense, La Magia De Nuestra Gente. 1st ed., Mexico, Gobierno del Estado de México, 2006.