Ivory is a material which is historically used widely in adornment.

Ivory is the tusk or tooth of an animal, including : the elephant, the walrus, the boar, the hippopotamus, the sperm whale, the narwhal and the crocodile.

Ivory can be identified as it carries a distinct striation pattern called Schreger lines. The formation of the line pattern varies in differing types of Ivory from the list of animals mentioned above. The elephant ivory striations create a diamond formation.

Through out history ivory has been used for human adornments. It was prized for it’s extremely fine and even texture which made it particularly desirable for carving.

There is mention of ivory in the bible, noting that king Solomon’s immense wealth was demonstrated by his possession of ivory.

Archaeologists believe that Near Eastern elephants were hunted to extinction by around 1500BC

Almost every culture has produced objects from ivory, ivory carvings have been found in stone age settlements.

For example:

India was a major centre for ivory carving. And many items such as furniture and decorative art employed the use of the material.

In Gujarat , India a bride is gifted an ivory bangle by her family just before her marriage, and wearing Ivory bangles for marriage is traditional in many areas of India.

Europeans prized the pearly lustrous material which they used to carve luxurious items. From the 13th century a Gothic fashion for combs and mirror frames of ivory was prevalent.

In Africa organic materials were widely utilised for adornment and many countries within this continent made use of Ivory. Notable examples are Dinka earrings, pendants and bracelets, large sculptural pieces from Sudan, ear pins and metal stud work adorned bracelets from Zaire, intricately carved pieces from Cameroon. Ghana brings the upper arm curved discs worn by the Kasena people, and the status pieces of Upper Volta to name just a few!

The Sailors from New England in America create pieces from whale Ivory, these carved wares were produced during prolonged whale hunting trips at sea, the collective mane for the art is Scrimshaw.

In Canada we see the use of Ivory from Walrus and Narwhal to create many ritual, decorative and utility items.

From the Ukraine we find mammoth Ivory bracelets in stone age excavations.

Ivory carving in China dates back over 6000 years Sophisticated pieces were carved during the Zhou dynasty, (11th Century BC to 256BC) . By the 19th Century there was a huge export market for intricately carved items such as puzzle balls.

In Japan ivory was worn in the form of Ojime and Netsuke.

There have been, as is the case with many materials which are scarce or expensive, numerous materials which were created to replicate ivory. The faux Ivories include Celluloid, bone, plastic and resin.

The sale of Ivory derived from endangered species is prohibited by law. However ivory currently produced from species which are not endangered is permitted. There are clearly defined legal restrictions regarding the sale of Ivory.

Other than certain antique specimens the trade in ivory derived from endangered species is banned. For an item made of Ivory to be classified as a permissible trade item it must pre-date 01/06/1947.

Antique ivory items must be in a worked form and not a raw material. The item must be in original condition. It would be illegal to sell a repaired Ivory item as it could be repaired with ivory which is post 01/06/1947.

Antique ivory can only be imported or exported if the relevant permits from CITES ( Convention International Trade in Endangered Species) are obtained.

Import or export of ivory without permits is a serous offence.

The illegal trade in ivory sadly continues and poses a huge threat to endangered animals.

The widespread popularity of ivory adornments continues, however many people choose not to be associated in the trade or possession of it.

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