The best thing about custom made knives is their ability to be made to look anyway you want with handles made out of any material.

In the May 2011 issue of BLADE magazine, there was an interesting feature about exotic knife handle materials and how the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regulates the importation of certain material. In the piece, the author mentioned some exotic material I didn’t know was used for handles. Upon more research, I found that there are a lot of exotic or rare knife handle materials used by custom makers.

Although you probably shouldn’t go hunt an endangered animals for any reason (since it is very illegal), I thought I’d make a list of the most exotic and rare knife handle materials on the market. (Also, be aware that some of this material is banned, so it requires careful documentation that proves it was made before it was banned or the whole knife could be confiscated.)

Giraffe Bone

While this material is not necessarily rare since it pretty much dominates the bone handle material market, it’s definitely exotic. Most of the giraffe bone material is imported from South Africa. You need permits and must have certificates of origination with most of this material or it could be confiscated. I’m not sure how they get all of the giraffe bone, but the majority is found simply roaming around and finding carcasses leftover from lion attacks.

Mammoth Ivory

For anyone who doesn’t know what a mammoth is, it’s an extinct genus of animals that are the relative of modern elephants. While there are variations, like the famed woolly mammoth, the typical mammoth was similar to the modern elephant except much much bigger and it also lived in North America. Since they are extinct, the supply of mammoth tusk is fairly limited and the knife handles that are made out of the material are expensive. Some people think that instead of sitting in a boring old museum forever, 11,000 year old mammoth tusks should be used for cool knives. There are still an estimated 10 million buried mammoths, so it could be much more common if someone were interested in excavating the frozen tundra of Siberia.

Tortoise Shell

Despite the name “tortoise shell,” the material actually comes from certain types of sea turtles. Since sea turtles are considered endangered, this material is illegal unless you have a certificate stating that it was made before there was a ban. The fact that they’re so rare makes the handles unique, but also highly susceptible to imitation.

Wood from Peach Trees

All the material thus far has been made from an animal, but certain wood is also pretty rare. Wood from peach trees, not to be confused with another common material called “peachwood,” is very limited. The reason is because there is little wood on peach trees and they often crack or splinter easily, but the wood is fine and coveted to knife makers. According to this site, the material is great because it’s hard, durable, dense and attractive.

Fossilized Hippo Tooth

Certain materials simply aren’t very common because they’re hard to find, which is the case with hippo teeth. The knife above was made from hippo bone that was fossilized, so it will retain its shape, coloring and mold. There are different laws concerning the use and carrying of hippo knife handles, so you’d want to be careful, especially when in the UK, if you have one of these rare knives.