centerlogobigAAD logo


ivory ban

I start off with a confession of bias: I have not eaten a mammal in more than 3 decades, the plight of the Elephant poached for his ivory is a personal and legitimate concern. And yet, it has been interesting to consider the comments of respected peers, expert in the new rules.

Appreciation for the intended effect, protecting the endangered, is as widely expressed. Also expressed, is concern for the unintended effect, the crippling of a number of legitimate industries. Many express doubt that the former will be accomplished by the latter.

The ivory ban does not come up often in day-to-day practice for most fine art experts. In an attempt to determine how the current value of the Chiparus bronze and ivory figure (illustrated above) might have been effected by current trade restrictions, I consulted with a number of colleagues more greatly impacted, and better acquainted with current practices. In general, even those who have made a serious study, are somewhat confused. Most have reported that they have simply stopped appraising or selling items with ivory included in the manufacture.

Below are a few comments:

From an Asian Antiques Appraiser: The ban appears to be so broad in scope, not only state to state, but also federally. This is a perilous time to be placing a value estimate on ivory. Big topic, many of us in different fields affected or potentially affected.

From a Mid-West Auctioneer: I haven't personally thought about there being a difference between Elephant and Mammoth Ivory. My firm is essentially saying no to anything with Ivory present. In theory there is a difference. It is even provable. Unfortunately proving it will be costly if accused and not worth the effort. At least not for me.

From an East Coast auction house appraisal expert: I think the best example of unintended consequences is the tea pot with Ivory insulators that isn't 100 years old, of course Jensen teapots, currently bring manufactured with mammoth, and old 1950s ones with Ivory, every Martin Guitar made prior to 1970, every Steinway piano prior to 1955 as well, the list goes on and on.

I can't pretend to have come to a clear conclusion of the art appraiser's obligations under the current rules. The main issues seem to be that it is difficult to distinguish antique from new or restored, African from Asian, and the process for obtaining CITES clearance certificates is deemed not worth the effort for the vast majority of objects.

What does appear to be clear is that this may not be the best time to attempt to sell or appraise a Chiparus Sculpture, or the vast majority of objects made of or containing ivory.

Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg