The lucky elephant charm is found to be historically linked in time to the past insurgence of British colonialism in India. It has been fount to have entered popular culture paganism during the late 19th century and most likely reached its peak during the tough times of the 1930s. This is a period in which lucky elephant charms and knickknacks were all the rage in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
The origins of the lucky elephant charm can be seen to have most likely been taken from the Hindu and even Buddhist religion/philosophy in India. A long historical reverence for elephants existed and actually let to a creation of a elephant headed god. Even today, some women of the east will make tea from elephant dung to have good luck for their pregnancy and their baby. As the elephant continues to dwindle in numbers and the natural forests are all but vanishing, these traditions and reverence is going with it. Unfortunately, these charms were often crafted from the very substance that led to their often brutal death. It is a wonder how people could conceptualize the charm as lucky with the horror that was the foundation for the structure.
With the name Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is worshipped as an opener of the way, compassion and good luck. Interestingly, Ganesha has his own iconography in India, and his best-known symbol is the swastika. This was a very popular luck-symbol in America, up until the Nazis corrupted its connotations with their actions.
However distantly related in reference, the American lucky elephant of the early to mid 20th century did not focus on the elephant-headed Ganesha imagery. The actual structure was that of an elephant. Through a number of difference channels, the American fascination with the lucky elephant-god of India and the white elephants of Thailand fused historically to birth the luck elephant charm.
Ironically, only those elephant figurines with their trunks upraised were considered lucky. Some of the material that these lucky elephant figurines of the mid-20th century were made of is ivory, ivory-coloured plastic, onyx, porcelain, jade, serpentine, and ebony.
Also, similar to the popularity of lucky elephant figurines was the popularity of lucky elephant charms. These were typically worn by both American and European girls and women as part of a charm bracelet. The bracelet often had other lucky symbols such as the heart, four-leaf clover, horseshoe, money bag, and wishbone in the overall charm.
Interestingly, during the Great Depression of the 1930s there was a strong interest in good luck coins and pocket pieces in North America. On pocket pieces, the elephant showed up along with a number of other good luck symbols; this includes the all-seeing eye, the swastika, the heart-padlock, the four-leaf clover, the horseshoe, the rabbit foot, and the wishbone. Also, the elephant appeared on political advertising coins for luck and as the mascot of the Republican Party.
Although elephant charms and lucky elephant figurines are still made and used, their popularity has declined sharply. Luckily, for the elephant these charms have pretty well been laid to rest. Sadly, it was the ivory which was usually the material used to make the charms which made them unlucky for the elephant. If you travel abroad do not let people sell you anything that may look like ivory. People will lie about its legality, but don't listen for the elephant sake. In most cases an elephant has been murdered for their tusks, so just say no to ivory.