Can we buy ivory jewelry? – A TrueBijou

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Ivory is a material whose production and marketing are prohibited in principle. The legislation, particularly with regard to the resale of second-hand ivory jewelry, is highly regulated. A friend asked me lately, “Can I buy ivory jewelry?”, Here is my substantiated answer.

Ivory is one of the precious materials for decoration and jewelry making. Formerly sought after, it has now fallen into disuse.

Ivory is the result of animal exploitation, which has endangered several species. Some are on the verge of extinction due to massive poaching around ivory.

With this image of animal cruelty, ivory is often rejected at the time of inheritance. Moreover, today, the ivory trade is formally prohibited and the legislation regulates the resale of old ivory objects.

The former king of Spain Juan Carlos poses proudly in front of an elephant he has just killed… (asshole)

Ivory, a material of animal origin

If the elephant tusks in ivory alone symbolize the trade in the material, we find ivory in other marine or terrestrial animals such as the narwhal, sperm whale, walrus, hippopotamus, rhinoceros … Prehistoric times, the Cro-Magnon man used ivory to make sculptures like the very famous Lady of Brassempouy dating from 23000 BC. AD, which is an exceptional museum piece in mammoth ivory.

What is ivory?

Ivory is an organic material with a structure comparable to wood. This is because the pulp of the tooth or the tusk allows the production of dentin. The elephant, for example, has no enamel. Like wood, we can know the age of an animal from the circles around the pulp, with a profile cut. Dentin is therefore the element of the tusk or the tooth that allows transformation into objects, surface sculpture or hollow carving.

Ivory bracelet

What was ivory transformed into?

In the name of art and aesthetic sense, its use was diverse:

  • Decorative objects such as statues, inlays on furniture, piano keys, billiard balls, chess pieces.
  • Dress ornamentation such as buttons, fans, combs and jewelry).
  • Tableware (handles of dishes, buttons, handles of cutlery).
  • Sewing equipment such as thimbles.

How to recognize ivory?

In the context of inheritance, it is common to inherit all the decoration of a grandfather and to want to sell it to an antique dealer or a second-hand dealer. It is not that rare to have an object made of ivory or strongly resembling ivory. How can you be 100% sure it’s ivory?

The appearance of ivory is quite characteristic, on two points: its weight and its feel. Ivory is very heavy, with an impressive weight density even for a small object. In addition, the ivory is smooth and shiny. If the ivory is irregular, it is surely bone.

Ivory is heat resistant. Hobbyists can try to stick a heated needle into the ivory object without damaging it. If the needle does not go in and there is no peculiar smell, it is ivory.

Of course, it is recommended to go see an antique dealer or an auctioneer, to see if the ivory is genuine. The latter can also make an estimate in the event of a possible sale, knowing that the regulations are severe in this area.

Alternatives to ivory

Today, ivory production is strictly prohibited. However, it is possible to turn to alternatives which are quite interesting imitations, without being a carbon copy of the material. Be careful, ivoirine is not an alternative to ivory, because it is ivory powder agglomerated in the manner of wood. Its sale is prohibited in the same way as pure ivory.

Seizure of ivory that will be burned

Vegetable ivory

Also called corozo or tagua, vegetable ivory is popular for making jewelry, buttons, piano keys, cutlery and decorative objects. Following the flowering of the ivory palm tree which grows in Central America and Africa, the tree will give fruits, the caryopses.

The latter contain a sweet milk, albumen, before reaching maturity. When the fruit has ripened, the liquid will solidify and become a ball of vegetable ivory. The cultivation of ivory palms can be framed by fair trade.


Today, celluloid is the material used to make tennis balls. This type of plastic is made up of cellulose nitrate and camphor. The production of objects in this material began in 1873. It is possible to have an old object that is not necessarily ivory. Celluloid is no longer used for making decorative items.


Resin is a current material that can allow the making of objects imitating ivory. Resistant, the resin is durable. Whether polyurethane or polyester resin, it is ideal for making statues. Moreover, the objects can remain outside and face the elements without degradation. The resin offers the possibility of achieving very clear details and finishes.

Strict legislation around ivory

Today, ivory is prohibited worldwide. The abuses of intensive poaching have shocked the whole world with hunters, boasting in photos of dead and dog-eared animals.

International ivory law

The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, commonly known as CITES, prohibits trade in ivory. It was signed on March 3, 1973 in Washington. It has been signed and ratified by the various Member States of the European Union. Community regulations such as Council of Europe Regulation EC n ° 338/97 of 09/12/1996 have been put in place within the EU, to ensure the application of the Convention.

European legislation on ivory

Today, Europe’s position is ambiguous on the ivory trade. Even if MEPs call for a total ban on ivory trade within the EU in a resolution, the ivory trade is tolerated on condition that the object is an antique. This fault is a breach in which poachers are engulfed, which makes Europe an ivory hub, in spite of itself. The European Commission presented an action plan against wildlife trafficking in February 2016 to Parliament.

The legislation on French territory on the resale of ivory

In France, the ivory trade is governed by the decree of August 16, 2016 on the prohibition of trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn on national territory, amended by the decree of May 4, 2017. What does this new decree, published in the Official Journal and available on the Legifrance website, say?

This decree concerns African and Asian elephants and white, black, Indian, Sumatran and Java rhinos. The principle is the prohibition of ivory trade, be it tusks or objects on the territory.

However, this principle is flexible thanks to the exceptions which are numerous for antiquity objects, that is to say for objects manufactured before July 1, 1975. This date is linked to the Washington Convention, which marks animal protection with a white stone.

Antiques dating from March 1947 to July 1, 1975 can be sold, provided you have an intra-EU certificate (CIC), for marketing. Sale without an intra-EU certificate (CIC) is possible, for antiques dating from before March 1947.

Controversy over Michelle Obama’s ivory jewelry

The principle is inflexible for the sale of raw ivory in the form of horn and tusk. It is totally prohibited.

Today, you should know that the private possession of ivory is free, but even if it means celebrating your 14 years of marriage, the ivory wedding anniversary, you might as well turn to something other than a dusty antiquity, a vestige of a past still very present of the boundless cruelty of man towards animals.

So spread the word, we NEVER buy ivory jewelry to close this filthy business.

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