So when it comes to choosing a material to make these little baubles out of, naturally it has to be expensive, and white because spending a lot on them shows piety, and obviously gods and saints and Judean virgins were all white. So what better than ivory?
You can see lots of these beautiful religious artifacts photographed by the photojournalist Brent Stirton here and here. Brent has investigated the links between religion and the ivory trade. Don't worry, Christians! It's not just you. Buddhists, Hindus and Shintoists are equally guilty, and equally racist, it seems.
To get the ivory, poachers slaughter elephants in Africa, where it is illegal in most countries. They frequently slaughter game wardens and police too. You can contrast these beautiful religious carvings with the work done by those who supply that raw materials here. I've shown a small sample below.
It's nice to see that worshiping a creator god makes people keen to care for its creation... though not at the expense of ostentatious displays of piety, obviously.
Brent Stirton's photographs won him this year's Wildlife Photojournalist Award by Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Their exhibition can be seen in London's Natural History Museum, from 18 October 2013 until 23 March 2014.