The Beauty and Appeal of Ivory Objects from Around the World

ivory objectsThere are many collectors and common people who appreciate ivory objects from around the world. The term ‘Ivory’ has always signified images of some beautiful objects related to fine craftsmanship, luxury, style, exclusivity and value. Most people do not realize, but the human race’s connection with ivory objects is ancient.

During the Pleistocene era, the Cro-Magnons used ivory for carving. This was around 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. Around 2,000 B.C, ivory objects were also used by the Egyptians. Between the 12th – 14th centuries, ivory was used by the Europeans.

The Beauty of Ivory

Although ivory is often associated with standard elephant tusks, it is also derived from the teeth and tusks of many other animals, such as wild boar, hippopotamus, hornbill, warthog, sperm whale, walrus and narwhal.

In animals, ivory is the dentine equivalent of human teeth. Dentine is the calcified tissue just beneath the tooth enamel. In all the above mentioned animals, the dentine mass in large tusks and teeth is significantly more than what humans have.

Ivory is a carving material that is very hard. However, it is still lighter than stone or metal. Millions of people appreciate ivory objects from around the world. Throughout the history of human race, men have made sincere efforts to acquire ivory objects, either by decimating elephant populations or excavating mammoths.

In most cases, ivory is traded as religious or decorative objects, name seals and musical instruments. Tusk and tooth ivory offers excellent versatility for carving. Tusks can easily be retained in original shape. They can also be carved superficially. Ivory is often used in many different kinds of inlay work, carved boxes, figurines, and jewelry and serviette holders.

The list of ivory objects is endless. In 1920s, plastics arrived in the manufacturing industry. Moreover, there was increased awareness about cruelty toward animals associated with ivory harvesting. Currently, ivory objects are considered some of the best collectibles. It is worth mentioning that there are also some opportunists selling fakes.

How Can You Identify Authentic Ivory?

A cross section of elephant or mammoth ivory distinctly reveals cross hatched patterns. These patterns are called Schreger lines. However, even these patterns can be faked on plastic. The technique used to fake these patterns is called scrimshawing.

The best way to ensure the authenticity of the object is to heat a small pin, and poke the ivory object. In case you have genuine ivory, the pin leaves a tiny mark, and whiff of a burnt tooth. On the other hand, plastic gives off an acrid smell. You will also be able to notice a hole.

Different types of ivory objects have different characteristics. It is possible to identify a particular object’s authenticity, but if you are dealing with multiple ivory objects, you should get them certified from a laboratory.

These days, some collectors even purchase ivory objects online. Most sellers give certificates of authenticity to give you some peace of mind. Before you buy an object, you should conduct an extensive research, and purchase from only a reputed dealer. This will help you invest in something authentic.

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Threats to Ivory

The unchecked and wanton slaughter of elephants has increased in recent years and has been the threat to the existence of ivory and wildlife as a resource income earner. Ivory can be very useful it is used for the manufacture of electrical appliances that can be used for airplane technology and radar equipment, it is valuable in the décor industry and it can be used in the making of musical instruments such as the piano. For all its uses, ivory is faced by a threat that can rid it of its existence, poaching.

Poaching has increased and in the last four years up to 40 000 African elephants have been downed for the illegal ivory market. Poaching has become a serious challenge to combat because of sophisticated weapons being used in their hunt down as well as the complicity of well-connected individuals in governments to those in the underworld of illegal trade. These individuals gain by sharing the loot that comes out of illegal ivory business. Efforts to apprehend such individuals have not succeeded because of the influence that they have in high levels of government. The poachers themselves are protected by the elite as they continue to plunder ivory.

Also one of the factors leading to the threat to the existence of ivory is the continuous encroachment of human settlements in land allocated for national parks and reserves. This has increased human-wildlife conflict and poachers use this to their advantage. As a result of high population increase, demand for land ownership and landlessness in most countries persists people have found their way into these parks and have disrupted the natural habitats and perennial migration routes of the elephants therefore when they attack homes and farms they are brought down by angry residents. Poachers see such conflicts as a means of getting ivory without facing direct implication and consequences.

Weak laws governing wildlife have also contributed to the thriving of illegal ivory trade and the threat to ivory altogether. Governments have not fully appreciated the damage that poaching can do to a country’s economy. The laws governing wildlife conservation and the penalties that follow breaking of such laws need to be firmed up, they do not give maximum jail sentences and punishment to offenders. The threats to wildlife are not also taken seriously, priorities by most governments usually favor infrastructural, economic and social development and wildlife conservation is not fully supported with wildlife and animal oriented initiatives getting low funding. This means that wildlife parks cannot get adequate staff to counter poachers who try to smuggle ivory.

The threat to the existence of ivory is primarily poaching. The factors mentioned above give credence to the fact that vigilance must be observed especially on governance. It is time that we sit down and have a deep reflection on the ramifications that slaughter of elephants has on ivory. There have been efforts to try and practice controlled and monitored ivory trade but such overtures have resulted in corruption that has made it almost impossible to control the trade. It is productive to have conversations and forums that surround the proper conservation of wildlife and how to eliminate poaching.

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