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Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusks (traditionally from elephants) and teeth of animals, that consists mainly of dentine, one of the physical structures of teeth and tusks. The chemical structure of the teeth and tusks of mammals is the same, regardless of the species of origin, but ivory contains structures of mineralised collagen. The trade in certain teeth and tusks other than elephant is well established and widespread; therefore, "ivory" can correctly be used to describe any mammalian teeth or tusks of commercial interest which are large enough to be carved or scrimshawed. Besides natural ivory, ivory can also be produced synthetically,Bio-Inspired Synthetic Ivory as a Sustainable Material
/ref> hence (unlike natural ivory) not requiring the retrieval of the material from animals. Tagua nuts can also be carved like ivory. The trade of finished goods of ivory products has its origins in the
Indus Valley The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river of Asia and a trans-Himalayan river of South and Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical reg ...
. Ivory is a main product that is seen in abundance and was used for trading in Harappan civilization. Finished ivory products that were seen in Harappan sites include kohl sticks, pins, awls, hooks, toggles, combs, game pieces, dice, inlay and other personal ornaments. Ivory has been valued since ancient times in art or manufacturing for making a range of items from ivory carvings to false teeth, piano keys, fans, and
domino Dominoes is a family of tile-based games played with gaming pieces, commonly known as dominoes. Each domino is a rectangular tile, usually with a line dividing its face into two square ''ends''. Each end is marked with a number of spots (also ca ...
es. Elephant ivory is the most important source, but ivory from mammoth, walrus, hippopotamus, sperm whale, orca, narwhal and warthog are used as well. Elk also have two ivory teeth, which are believed to be the remnants of tusks from their ancestors. The national and international
trade Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market (economics), market. An early form of trade, barter, s ...
in natural ivory of threatened species such as African and Asian elephants is illegal. The word ''ivory'' ultimately derives from the ancient Egyptian ''âb, âbu'' ("elephant"), through the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
''ebor-'' or ''ebur''.


Uses

Both the Greek and Roman civilizations practiced ivory carving to make large quantities of high value works of art, precious religious objects, and decorative boxes for costly objects. Ivory was often used to form the white of the eyes of statues. There is some evidence of either whale or walrus ivory used by the ancient Irish. Solinus, a Roman writer in the 3rd century claimed that the Celtic peoples in Ireland would decorate their sword-hilts with the 'teeth of beasts that swim in the sea'. Adomnan of Iona wrote a story about St Columba giving a sword decorated with carved ivory as a gift that a penitent would bring to his master so he could redeem himself from slavery. The Syrian and North African elephant populations were reduced to extinction, probably due to the demand for ivory in the Classical world. The Chinese have long valued ivory for both art and utilitarian objects. Early reference to the Chinese export of ivory is recorded after the Chinese
explorer Exploration refers to the historical practice of discovering remote lands. It is studied by geographers and historians. Two major eras of exploration occurred in human history: one of convergence, and one of divergence. The first, covering most ...
Zhang Qian Zhang Qian (; died c. 114) was a Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century BC during the Han dynasty. He was one of the first official diplomats to bring back valuable inf ...
ventured to the west to form alliances to enable the eventual free movement of Chinese goods to the west; as early as the first century BC, ivory was moved along the Northern Silk Road for consumption by western nations. Southeast Asian kingdoms included tusks of the Indian elephant in their annual tribute caravans to China. Chinese craftsmen carved ivory to make everything from images of deities to the pipe stems and end pieces of opium pipes. In Japan, ivory carvings became popular in the 17th century during the Edo period, and many '' netsuke'' and '' kiseru'', on which animals and legendary creatures were carved, and '' inro'', on which ivory was inlaid, were made. From the mid-1800s, the new Meiji government's policy of promoting and exporting arts and crafts led to the frequent display of elaborate ivory crafts at World's fair. Among them, the best works were admired because they were purchased by Western museums, wealthy people, and the Japanese Imperial family.Masayuki Murata. (2017) ''Introduction to Meiji Crafts'' pp. 88–89. Me no Me. The Buddhist cultures of
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, including
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,
Thailand Thailand ( ), historically known as Siam () and officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia, located at the centre of the Mainland Southeast Asia, Indochinese Peninsula, spanning , with a population of almost 70 mi ...
,
Laos Laos (, ''Lāo'' )), officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic ( Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, French: République démocratique populaire lao), is a socialist ...
and
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, Romanization of Khmer#UNGEGN, UNGEGN: ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia, spanning an ar ...
, traditionally harvested ivory from their domesticated elephants. Ivory was prized for containers due to its ability to keep an airtight seal. It was also commonly carved into elaborate seals utilized by officials to "sign" documents and decrees by stamping them with their unique official seal. In Southeast Asian countries, where Muslim Malay peoples live, such as
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two r ...
,
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of over List of islands of Indonesia, 17,000 islands, including Sumatr ...
and the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
, ivory was the material of choice for making the handles of kris daggers. In the Philippines, ivory was also used to craft the faces and hands of Catholic icons and images of saints prevalent in the Santero culture. Tooth and tusk ivory can be carved into a vast variety of shapes and objects. Examples of modern carved ivory objects are okimono, netsukes, jewelry, flatware handles, furniture inlays, and piano keys. Additionally, warthog tusks, and teeth from sperm whales, orcas and hippos can also be scrimshawed or superficially carved, thus retaining their morphologically recognizable shapes. As trade with Africa expanded during the first part of the 1800s, ivory became readily available. Up to 90 percent of the ivory imported into the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
was processed, at one time, in
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York (state), New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the ...
where Deep River and Ivoryton in 1860s became the centers of ivory milling, in particular, due to the demand for ivory piano keys. Ivory usage in the last thirty years has moved towards mass production of souvenirs and jewelry. In Japan, the increase in wealth sparked consumption of solid ivory '' hanko'' – name seals – which before this time had been made of wood. These ''hanko'' can be carved out in a matter of seconds using machinery and were partly responsible for massive African elephant decline in the 1980s, when the African elephant population went from 1.3 million to around 600,000 in ten years.EIA (1989)
"A System of Extinction – the African Elephant Disaster".
Environmental Investigation Agency, London.


Consumption before plastics

Before
plastic Plastics are a wide range of synthetic polymers, synthetic or semi-synthetic materials that use polymers as a main ingredient. Their Plasticity (physics), plasticity makes it possible for plastics to be Injection moulding, moulded, Extrusion, e ...
s were introduced, ivory had many ornamental and practical uses, mainly because of the white color it presents when processed. It was formerly used to make cutlery handles, billiard balls, piano keys, Scottish bagpipes, buttons and a wide range of ornamental items. Synthetic substitutes for ivory in the use of most of these items have been developed since 1800: the billiard industry challenged inventors to come up with an alternative material that could be manufactured; the piano industry abandoned ivory as a key covering material in the 1970s. Ivory can be taken from dead animals – however, most ivory came from elephants that were killed for their tusks. For example, in 1930 to acquire 40 tons of ivory required the killing of approximately 700 elephants. Other animals which are now endangered were also preyed upon, for example, hippos, which have very hard white ivory prized for making artificial teeth. In the first half of the 20th century, Kenyan elephant herds were devastated because of demand for ivory, to be used for piano keys. During the Art Deco era from 1912 to 1940, dozens (if not hundreds) of European artists used ivory in the production of chryselephantine statues. Two of the most frequent users of ivory in their sculptured artworks were Ferdinand Preiss and Claire Colinet.


Availability

Owing to the rapid decline in the populations of the animals that produce it, the importation and sale of ivory in many countries is banned or severely restricted. In the ten years preceding a decision in 1989 by CITES to ban international trade in African elephant ivory, the population of African elephants declined from 1.3 million to around 600,000. It was found by investigators from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that CITES sales of stockpiles from Singapore and Burundi (270 tonnes and 89.5 tonnes respectively) had created a system that increased the value of ivory on the international market, thus rewarding international smugglers and giving them the ability to control the trade and continue smuggling new ivory. Since the ivory ban, some Southern African countries have claimed their elephant populations are stable or increasing, and argued that ivory sales would support their conservation efforts. Other African countries oppose this position, stating that renewed ivory trading puts their own elephant populations under greater threat from poachers reacting to demand. CITES allowed the sale of 49 tonnes of ivory from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana in 1997 to Japan. In 2007, under pressure from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, eBay banned all international sales of elephant-ivory products. The decision came after several mass slaughters of African elephants, most notably the 2006 Zakouma elephant slaughter in Chad. The IFAW found that up to 90% of the elephant-ivory transactions on eBay violated their own wildlife policies and could potentially be illegal. In October 2008, eBay expanded the ban, disallowing any sales of ivory on eBay. A more recent sale in 2008 of 108 tonnes from the three countries and South Africa took place to Japan and China. The inclusion of China as an "approved" importing country created enormous controversy, despite being supported by CITES, the World Wide Fund for Nature and Traffic. They argued that China had controls in place and the sale might depress prices. However, the price of ivory in China has skyrocketed. Some believe this may be due to deliberate price fixing by those who bought the stockpile, echoing the warnings from the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society on price-fixing after sales to Japan in 1997, and monopoly given to traders who bought stockpiles from Burundi and Singapore in the 1980s. A 2019 peer-reviewed study reported that the rate of African elephant poaching was in decline, with the annual poaching mortality rate peaking at over 10% in 2011 and falling to below 4% by 2017.Severin Hauenstein, Mrigesh Kshatriya, Julian Blanc, Carsten F. Dormann & Colin M. Beale
African elephant poaching rates correlate with local poverty, national corruption and global ivory price
''Nature Communications'', vol. 10, 2242 (2019), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09993-2.
The study found that the "annual poaching rates in 53 sites strongly correlate with proxies of ivory demand in the main Chinese markets, whereas between-country and between-site variation is strongly associated with indicators of corruption and poverty." Based on these findings, the study authors recommended action to both reduce demand for ivory in China and other main markets and to decrease corruption and poverty in Africa. In 2006, nineteen African countries signed the "Accra Declaration" calling for a total ivory trade ban, and twenty range states attended a meeting in Kenya calling for a 20-year moratorium in 2007. Methods of obtaining ivory can be divided into: * Shooting the elephant to take its tusks: this method is of concern here. * Taking tusks from an elephant which has died of natural causes. * Taking tusks from an elephant which has had to be put down for another reason, for example, severe arthritis, or if its last molar teeth are worn out and can no longer chew its food. * Finding old tusks from elephants which died a long time before. * Among working elephants which use their tusks to carry logs, there is a best length for their tusks. In former times in India, often their tusks were cut back to this length (and often the shortened tusk's end was bound in copper). This periodically freed pieces of ivory for the carving trade.


Controversy and conservation issues

The use and trade of elephant ivory have become controversial because they have contributed to seriously declining elephant populations in many countries. It is estimated that consumption in Great Britain alone in 1831 amounted to the deaths of nearly 4,000 elephants. In 1975, the Asian elephant was placed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES), which prevents international trade between member states of species that are threatened by trade. The African elephant was placed on Appendix I in January 1990. Since then, some southern African countries have had their populations of elephants "downlisted" to Appendix II, allowing the domestic trade of non-ivory items; there have also been two "one off" sales of ivory stockpiles."To Save An Elephant" by Allan Thornton & Dave Currey, Doubleday 1991 In June 2015, more than a ton of confiscated ivory was crushed in
New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the L ...
's
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by the Wildlife Conservation Society to send a message that the illegal trade will not be tolerated. The ivory, confiscated in New York and
Philadelphia Philadelphia, often called Philly, is the List of municipalities in Pennsylvania#Municipalities, largest city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the List of United States cities by population, sixth-largest city i ...
, was sent up a conveyor belt into a rock crusher. The Wildlife Conservation Society has pointed out that the global ivory trade leads to the slaughter of up to 35,000 elephants a year in Africa. In June 2018, Conservative MEPs’ Deputy Leader Jacqueline Foster MEP urged the EU to follow the UK's lead and introduce a tougher ivory ban across Europe. China was the biggest market for poached ivory but announced they would phase out the legal domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products in May 2015. In September of the same year, China and the U.S. announced they would "enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory." The Chinese market has a high degree of influence on the elephant population.


Alternatives


Fossil mammoth tusks

Trade in the ivory from the tusks of dead woolly mammoths frozen in the tundra has occurred for 300 years and continues to be legal. Mammoth ivory is used today to make handcrafted knives and similar implements. Mammoth ivory is rare and costly because mammoths have been extinct for millennia, and scientists are hesitant to sell museum-worthy specimens in pieces. Some estimates suggest that 10 million mammoths are still buried in Siberia.


Fossil walrus ivory

Fossil walrus ivory from animals that died before 1972 is legal to buy and sell or possess in the United States, unlike many other types of ivory.


Synthetic ivory

Ivory can also be produced synthetically.


Nuts

A species of hard nut is gaining popularity as a replacement for ivory, although its size limits its usability. It is sometimes called vegetable ivory, or tagua, and is the seed
endosperm The endosperm is a tissue produced inside the seeds of most of the flowering plants following double fertilization. It is triploid (meaning three chromosome sets per nucleus) in most species, which may be auxin-driven. It surrounds the Embryo#Plant ...
of the ivory nut palm commonly found in coastal
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s of
Ecuador Ecuador ( ; ; Quechuan languages, Quechua: ''Ikwayur''; Shuar language, Shuar: ''Ecuador'' or ''Ekuatur''), officially the Republic of Ecuador ( es, República del Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator"; Quechuan ...
,
Peru , image_flag = Flag of Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo nacional del Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (emblem), National seal , national_motto = "Fi ...
and
Colombia Colombia (, ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a country in South America with insular regions in North America—near Nicaragua's Caribbean coast—as well as in the Pacific Ocean. The Colombian mainland is bordered by the Cari ...
.


Gallery

File:The Bull Leaper Knossos 1500BC.jpg, The Bull Leaper, an ivory figurine from the palace of Knossos,
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, ...
, 1500 BC File:AGMA Ivory Pyxis with Griffins Attacking Stags.jpg, Ancient Greek ivory pyxis with griffins attacking stags. Late 15th century BC File:Porphyrogenetus.jpg, A piece of carved ivory from the Pushkin Museum representing Christ blessing Emperor Constantine VII. Mid 10th century AD File:Ivory cover of the Lorsch Gospels, c. 810, Carolingian, Victoria and Albert Museum.jpg, Ivory cover of the Codex Aureus of Lorsch, c. 810,
Carolingian dynasty The Carolingian dynasty (; known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Franks, Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of Mayor of the palace, mayor Charles Martel and a descendant ...
,
Victoria and Albert Museum The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) in London is the world's largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and nam ...
File:Madonna with Child, anonymous Filipino artist, 1600s AD, ivory, silver - Cathedral of Seville - Sevilla, Spain - DSC07641.JPG, Madonna with Child from the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
, 1600s File:BigUnTusks6184w.jpg, Pig tusks File:กรับพวง.jpg, Ivory musical instrument from Thailand File:Elhafen Battle of Hannibal and Scipio.jpg, ''Battle of Hannibal and Scipio (Alexander's victory over Poros)'', by Ignaz Elhafen, c. 1700, Warsaw Royal Castle File:Mammoth ivory hg.jpg, Section through the ivory tusk of a mammoth File:Casket ivory Louvre UCAD4417.jpg, Casket, ivory and silver, Caliphate of Córdoba, 966 File:Ivory carving from Indonesia (40186139422).jpg, Carving from Indonesia File:Morgan Casket MET DP100742.jpg, The '' Morgan Casket'', an 11th-century ivory casket attributed to Southern Italy, currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art File:Head of the Virgin Mary from the Philippines, 18th-19th century, carved ivory with inlaid glass eyes.JPG, Virgin Mary head from the Philippines, 18th–19th century File:Ivory bead A.jpg, A cubical ivory bead or game piece from the collections of the Hunt Museum File:Model of Ngo Mon, ivory, wood, mother of pearl - Museum of Vietnamese History - Ho Chi Minh City - DSC06236.JPG, Ngo Mon ivory model from Vietnam File:Royal Peacock Barge LACMA M.82.154.jpg, A carved ivory
barge Barge nowadays generally refers to a flat-bottomed boat, flat-bottomed inland waterway vessel which does not have its own means of mechanical propulsion. The first modern barges were pulled by tugs, but nowadays most are pushed by Pusher (boat) ...
from Murshidabad,
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
File:Casket with two drawers, North India, 18th-19th century, ivory - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01539.JPG, Ivory casket with two drawers, North India File:Ivory workers in Calcutta (c. 1903).jpg, Ivory workers in
Calcutta Kolkata (, or , ; also known as Calcutta , the official name until 2001) is the capital of the India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by ar ...
, c. 1903


See also

* Biobased economy * Destruction of ivory * Ivory carving * Ivory tower * Jim Nyamu * Schreger line * Vegetable ivory * Walrus ivory * RAL 1014 Ivory


References


External links


TRAFFIC; "New report confirms 'major surge' in ivory smuggling in 2011"

EIA "Blood Ivory: Exposing the myth of a regulated market"

Federation of Environmental Organizations Sri Lanka: "Blood Ivory to Buddhist Temples?"



The International Ivory Society
* Includes several diagrams. {{Authority control Sculpture materials