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Ivory & Netsuke

In the 1700s, the Japanese would wear robes without pockets and therefore were in need of something to fasten a pouch (sagemono) or case (inrō) to their sash (obi). Bead fastener's (ojime) were worn and the Netsuke used to secure the pouch between the sash and beads. Netsuke Netsuke, no longer the Japanese tradition that it once was, has also come to refer to small Japanese objet d'art carvings, typically from bone or wood, sometimes ivory.

It is illegal to sell ivory in the United Kingdom and Europe if carved in 1947 onward (post 1946). In the UK carved pre-1947 is okay, however, United States law conflicts with European legislation, regulations in the USA being somewhat complex at best. There is much grey area and until recently certainly most ivory could be traded in the US if it was deemed to have been worked before 1976, a definition for too long at odds with the 1947 cut-off date adopted by EU CITES regulations.

More recently the USA have banned the trade of ALL ivory. Presently in the UK post-1947 objects will no longer be able to apply for a CITES Article 10 exemption, however, little post-1947 ivory is ever given Article 10 certification. Dealers of antique ivory objects that can be proved to pre-date 3 March 1947 can continue to trade; the government, however, are to consult the antiques industry on what form such proof needs to take.

It pains me somewhat when experts, discussing the cut-off point, refer to ivory as of a certain value regardless – much better maybe to deem all ivory particularly post 1946 as having no value what-so-ever. Ivory in my view should not be referred to in monitory terms, albeit arguably the workmanship applied to ivory pre-1947 will have some value to someone. Uncertain or politically correct? Perhaps best to avoid buying ivory altogether.


A personal view, a proposal or appeal if you like to each and everyone, perhaps lending itself to ridding the world of the evil that is, in particular, the seamlessly never-ending senseless barbaric and heartless killings of Elephant and Rhinoceros that will almost certainly lead to their extinction, if not annihilation, in the coming years.

01. Stop referring to Ivory in monitory terms completely, whoever you might be including the media, and discourage all sales regardless of the existing 1947 cut-off date adopted by EU CITES regulations; the, until recent, conflicting legislation in the USA and elsewhere around the globe.

02. Withdraw global foreign aid for countries that are home to poachers forcing the country to deal appropriately within with their citizens not excluding, if necessary, severe punishments for those involved to doubly ensure that the practice is not encouraged moving forward.

03. Pending China's ongoing commitment to be more aggressive in their ban on Ivory trade and, subject to the conceivable impact of their internal measures, might we also as a nation, as a country wherever in the world, increase sanctions against China and press to boycott their goods as much as is possible or reasonable from the top down to each and every individual.