Identifying Antique Ivory Facts & Information

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I decided to write this guide with the intention of (hopefully) helping you learn some important,usefull and interesting information about ivory,this guide should be helpfull to everyone,not just people interested in collecting ivory,but also to those who are opposed to the sale of Ivory all together as it provides honest and accurate facts about some misconceptions on the sale of Ivory.The information compiled here is factual and sourced from hours of research and years of collecting antique ivory myself,the only thing i ask in return for this free information is a positive vote,a positive vote pushes this guide further up the list which means more people get to read it,by educating people on the real facts regarding ivory,and the modern dangers regarding "new" ivories we can all play a part in protecting endangered species.If any part of this guide is not helpful (please email me your suggestions),or if you have a question,please feel free to email me and i will do my best to help.

The Sale Of Antique Ivory!

Good Or Bad ?

I want to start by confirming that although i collect and sell antique ivory,i agree that the conservation of ALL species on our earth is a good idea(endangered or not),however i know that there will always be those who  are opposed to the sale of Ivory full stop,what i would like to say in a fair balanced way is that mankind has commited many bad acts in our history,however as we move forward and evolve antiques are our reminders of that history (good and bad) and just because we understand in the present day that it was wrong,does not mean that we should forget that history,or destroy that history,we cant change what happened,we can only move forward and hopefully learn not to make the same mistakes.

The reason i feel the need to explain this is because i know certain individuals scape goat antiques dealers and collectors for selling or buying antique Ivory,however whilst they target the likes of me who has no interest in obtaining or selling modern ivory,the real culprits go by undetected,which defeats the object of trying to protect animals such as elephants.Its worth remembering that from some dealers and collectors points of view,that it would not be in there interest from a financial point of view for the trade in modern Ivory to be opened,if this did happen then ineviatbly this would have a negative effect on their own business/and collections.

Is All Ivory Illegal?

Another misconception which is very useful for everyone to fully understand is the actual word Ivory,because we hear on the news and read in the papers that elephants are hunted for "Ivory" we have grown to believe that all ivory comes from elephants,this is not the case,in the narrower meaninging Ivory does come from both the African and Asian elephant,however in the broader sense Ivory also comes from

  • Hippo
  • Walrus
  • Hog
  • Boar
  • Whale
  • Mammoth(extinct)
  • amongst other species

It is worth noting that although some of the above species are on the CITES list (this is a treaty adhered to by most of the world to protect endangered or potentially endangered species) others such as the hog are not,which brings me into my second common misconception on Ivory,this being that people are led to believe that all modern Ivory is illegal,this is not the case.

The word Ivory is a descriptive word reffering to the tusk of Ivory bearing species,it is not Ivory in its self that is prohibited,but the Ivory of endangered species.

Modern Ivory Carvings

It is worth noting that the most common forms of modern Ivory you will come across are in the form of Hippo and Mammoth.

  •  Hippo ivory has been widely used since the late 80,s,originally used because of the ban on elephant ivory,and up untill about 2 or 3 years ago Hippo Ivory was widely available on Ebay(in large quantities) and in fact every where you looked,i personally disagreed with the trade in the Hippo Ivory because i was aware of just how much there was,which inevitably made you realise how many Hippos were being killed,however thankfully now you very rarely see it,and i have a feeling it has been placed on the CITES list (or is about to be) meaning that hippo ivory will be classified in the same way as elephant Ivory.
  • Mammoth ivory is the tusks of the wooly mammoth which became extinct thousands of years ago,the tusks are found in Siberia and purchased by China for carving,the ivory itself displays very similar grain to that of elephant Ivory,although the grain is much darker and prominent to the naked eye,this is completely legal to trade,import and export and is widely available on Ebay.
  • I have recently noticed sellers from China and Hong Kong offering large quantities of "Hog" - "Boar" ivory-tusk carvings,again as mentioned previously as far as i am aware there are currently no restrictions on the sale of these forms of Ivory,however it is worth noting if you do decide to buy these,some sellers replace words to get around selling an item,for example if you had an illegal hippo or elephant ivory to sell,your only hopes of selling it would be to change your wording,for example    ivory-tusk     hippo-hog.
  • There are examples of modern elephant ivory about,but not in the quantity that you are led to believe,i probably find 1 or 2 examples every few weeks,not the quantity that IFAW lead you to believe,im not saying that it does not exist,because it does,but i personally believe that most of the modern elephant Ivory is in Africa itself and aimed at the tourist market,which probably explains why there is not that much of it about.(this is a good thing).

Morraly everyone needs to play their part in the conservation of Ivory producing species,there are many ways that you can help,the first being learning about Ivory itself,if you take the time to learn the differences between regions and periods it wont be long before you are fairly accurate at distinguishing wether an item is old(pre ban) or not,and with a little practice you will slowly become accurate enough to actually date a piece to a more specific period (for example 1900-1910),the second thing that is worth while considering is not to buy modern Ivory at all,for example at the moment on Ebay certain sellers from Asia are offering large quantities of Netsuke and figures made from Hog and Boar tusks,now legally they are allowed to do this as the Ivory is not from a protected species,however whilst ever people buy the modern Ivory carvings the demand for modern Ivory exists,if people did not buy these at all,however cheap they are,however attractive they appear the manufacture of them would cease,which inevitably would have a knock on effect for the endangered producing species.The final thing you can do(relevant only to antiques collectors) is to use sellers who you know have a good reputation,generally speaking they are here for the long haul,and wont be tempted to trick you in the hope of a one off illegal sale,most good sellers will not only be able to offer you a good selection of antique Ivories,you also have the benefit of their knowledge and experience meaning what you buy,is exactly what you expect.

The Laws In Short!

It would be usefull to you to understand the laws on the sale of Ivory,and the laws regarding the import and export of ivory(endangered species only).

  • According to UK and EU laws in conjunction with CITES(Convention International Trade in Endangered Spescies) The trade in Ivory is banned out right,this means that the sale,transport,import export etc is strictly prohibited,the only exception is to antique specimens.
  • For an Ivory to be classified as an antique specimen it must predate 1.6.1947.
  • The ivory must be in a worked form,this means all unworked ivory,off cuts,tusks,teeth etc are prohibited to be exported,imported or sold. One thing with this rule is that you could have a 200 year old tusk which you can prove is 200 years old,but you will not be permitted to sell it,get it certificated,imported or exported.However you would still be legally allowed to own it and admire it,but never ever sell it.
  • The ivory must be in its original worked form,this basically means that if your item has been repaired,and the repairs contain ivory,you need to be certain that the ivory/repair is pre ban.     A common misconception here lies with people believing that old ivory can be re worked,it cant!!! if you attempted to carve a piece of ivory,even if you knew it was 100 years old,you would be breaking the law exactly the same as someone carving a modern tusk..
  • As the UK is part of the EU,you are perfectly entitled to transport antique ivory in and out of any EU destination(to another EU destination),i think this stems from the fact that on paper we are all one state,so in theory taking your ivory from the UK to France for example is no different to taking your Ivory from Wales to Scotland,however it is also worth noting that although under EU law this is allowed,certain EU counties take a dim view on this and have been known to disregard the ruling and class an importation in the same way as they would from a none EU country,which typically ends up with confiscation and the item being destroyed(for example it has been known in Germany for them to remove the ivory keys from a piano !!!),another point worth mentioning is that the laws change frequently and drastically,so what you were allowed to do today,may not be what you are allowed to do tomorrow!!!so it is always beneficial as with all legal issues to double check that everything is the same as the last time.
  • Ivory can be exported and imported providing it is antique and you apply for the relevant import and export permits from CITES,these are costly and time consuming,however if you intend to export or import Ivory be warned,doing so without permits is no different to being caught importing 100 elephant tusks illegally,it is a serious offence,dont do it.

Caring For Ivory

Ivory as a material consists of 2 basic properties,Dentin and Pulp,the dentin is the outer section that is actually carved or worked,generally the pulp is far to soft or porous for working.Usually there are also several layers of enamel,the only exception to the rule is elephant Ivory which is complete dentin,and generally no emal due to it being worn away.

Because of the natural properties in the make up of the Ivory (water being one of them) caring for them sounds complex but isnt,generally speaking all you need to do is keep it away from direct sunlight and away from areas where there can be changes in humidity and temperature, these 3 things will shorten the life span of your ivory greatly and eventually cause it to split and crack.People used to believe that a dry enviroment was the best area to keep ivory,however it is not,if you have ivory stored in a cabinet,put a piece of sponge soaked in water in the bottom,this will ensure the air trapped inside is moist,meaning the ivory is less likely to crack.Another little pointer i personally follow is to handle your ivory reguarly,because the oil in your skin,it helps protect the ivory.

You can clean Ivory very easily,i prefer mine to look old and dirty as i think its part of the character,however you can if you wish to use warm soapy water and a cloth or brush to clean it,think of it as cleaning a tooth,thats all it really is.

Identifying 1 Ivory From Another

To explain this in full and do it justice i will need to provide several good quality images and diagrams,and as this is a "work in progress" that wont be right now,but if you pop back again soon it will be explained in full.




This is a work in progress,so there will be updates but i will be explaining all about identifying one ivory from another,how to tell the difference between old and new ivory,as well as other relevant information.

I would finally like to remind you that the guide has been created to educate those who are unfamillar with the facts,rules and laws, which can only be a good thing in the long term conservation of animals,because most people genuinely dont understand the laws,facts and figures.

Ironically those of you who vote no (probably the conservationists) will just be pushing this guide further down the list never to be read, meaning people will still be blissfully unaware of the laws and unable to abide by laws benefiting animal conservation in the long haul.

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