Ivory puzzles were manufactured in China for export to Europe and America from about 1820 to 1930. The Tangram was invented in China around 1800; however most of the other puzzles had been known in Europe much earlier. Ships bringing silk, porcelain, and other cargoes to Europe and America would often bring a few of these sets as gifts for the owners and officers' families.
During the early 19th century ivory puzzles from China were the most commonly seen puzzles. This, plus the supposedly enigmatic nature of the Chinese, led to the supposition that the Chinese had invented them all and to the adoption of the generic name "Chinese Puzzle" for all kinds of mechanical puzzles.
The puzzles were often exported in black lacquered boxes containing from nine to twenty puzzles held in position by a supporting structure made of cardboard covered either in blue silk or red paper.
One of the pieces in these ivory puzzle sets is the Reef Knot puzzle which was usually made of tortoise shell. This was the precurser of the more sophisticated Gordian Knot, which has two sets of loops instead of the Reef Knot's single set.