It was the smell that put off the men and women charged with converting the subcutaneous fat from freshly slaughtered elephants into ruby red beads. It was noxious. Acrid. The fumes were stomach-churning as the workers in China spent hours curing then polishing translucent beads of fat that often didn’t retain their shape.
One trader told investigators with Elephant Family, a conservation watchdog based in London, England, that it took him an entire day to produce one bead.