The sale of ivory is prohibited in the United States with a few exceptions. Pre-existing items made of ivory, such as musical instruments from orchestras, furniture, and decorative objects such as firearms containing less than 200 grams of ivory or antiques of at least one century old are exempt from these restrictions.
How much does ivory cost?
In 2016, the United States announced an almost complete ban on domestic ivory. And China has announced too that it is closing domestic ivory markets for some time. With all these prohibitions, intensive poaching is high.
In terms of the cost of ivory, it’s challenging to provide an exact figure due to the illegal nature of the trade. Before many of the bans went into effect, ivory could be found for as much as $1,500 per pound or even higher. However, with increased enforcement and awareness campaigns, prices on the black market have seen fluctuations. In some regions, the price dropped to below $500 per pound, but this can vary widely.
Given that a large tusk can weigh about 100 pounds, a pair of tusks could potentially cost tens of thousands to over a hundred thousand dollars on the black market. However, these figures are rough estimates and can fluctuate based on various factors. Prices in this market can vary widely based on demand, region, quality of the ivory, and the risk associated with its procurement and sale.
An investigation into the online market in Hawaii found that 47 US-based traders were advertising more than 4,600 ivory products, valued at $ 1.2 million, the vast majority being presented as being made of elephant ivory. New York banned the ivory trade in 2015, while the California ban came into force in 2016.
Despite the optimism about the adoption of the ban, there is great opposition from those who benefit to some extent from the ivory trade. One of the arguments used is that all people who own such objects, including grandmothers, would be considered criminals, although the new law would only prohibit sales.
Ivory, derived primarily from the tusks of elephants but also from other animals like walruses and narwhals, has been prized for its beauty and malleability for centuries. Historically, it was used in a variety of products as the following:
|Ivory Carvings and Statues||Small figurines||$100 – $500|
|Larger, intricate statues||$1,000 – $5,000 or more|
|Jewelry||Ivory bangles||$50 – $200|
|Necklaces||$100 – $500|
|Brooches||$50 – $300|
|Piano Keys||Replacement of a single key||$50 – $100|
|Full set for a grand piano||$3,000 – $5,000|
|Billiard Balls||A single ball||$100 – $200|
|A high-quality set||$1,000 – $3,000|
|Knife Handles and Gun Grips||Knife with ivory handle||$200 – $1,000|
|Gun with ivory grips||$500 – $2,000|
|Toothpicks||A single ivory toothpick||$10 – $20|
|Ornate holders with multiple picks||$100 – $500|
|Fans||Basic ivory fan||$100 – $300|
|Ornate, hand-carved fans||$500 – $2,000|
|Raw Ivory||Per pound||$500 – $1,500 (fluctuating)|
It’s essential to reiterate that trading in ivory, even antique items in many jurisdictions, is illegal and unethical. Always opt for ethical and sustainable alternatives when considering products traditionally made from ivory.
Purchasing or selling ivory can lead to severe legal penalties, and contributes to the ongoing threat to elephant populations.
Important things to consider
In the US, the illegal import of ivory is a thriving business. The large quantities of ivory coming from China and Japan are a sign that demand is growing and raises a question mark about the situation of poaching in Africa.
The US ivory market ranks second in the world, after Hong Kong, in terms of the amount of ivory traded. Although international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, with the effect of halting it at the moment, poaching has been resumed and has reached alarming levels today mainly due to mafia-type groups in Asia.
The best way to find out if the jewelry is not counterfeit is the “needle test”. Heat a needle until it is red and place it in an area where you would not mind a small burn. The smell of a burnt bone is similar to the smell of burnt hair or the smell of a dentist’s cutter digging a tooth. The ivory will show no signs of burning or burning odor.
You can also distinguish elephant ivory from other bones by the fact that only elephant ivory has distinctive cross-creational patterns. No other mammalian bone has this feature. Other ivory-replacement materials such as plastic, glass, bones, and teeth of unworked species are currently used successfully.
Objects on the illegal ivory market in America, like jewelry, statuettes, and other decorative objects, have been purchased by private individuals, via the internet and entered the country under false descriptions.
In this regard, eBay, the famous online sales site, said through its spokesman that it adopted stricter rules related to the trade of ivory, as they found to have 94% of such objects sold illegally.
In conclusion, ivory is a good of inestimable value, which has changed over time from a sign of man’s prosperity and victory over the harsh conditions of savagery to a widespread massacre of the huge meekness of the African continent.
What can you do in this regard? Buy ivory jewelry in a responsible manner, in legal possession for which you can be presented with supporting documents.