Two Million Tusk’s suggestion of a programme “devoted to the historical timeline of ivory …and the ivory trade…through the ages” is common sense. Why ruin it then by following this with the claim that “…we all, of course, look back on this part of global history with shame”.
We don’t! We all would like to prevent the present trade in illegally sourced ivory.
The letter concludes: “However, the ivory trade has not shed its grisly past and continues today.”
The unnamed writers of the Two Million Tusks letter should look beyond the end of their collective noses and agree that the trade about which they write in that sentence has nothing to do with the trade in antique ivory, the trade we are so anxious to preserve.
Daniel Fearon New Malden
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MADAM – I have been involved in the study and selling of Japanese antique netsuke, many of which are made of elephant ivory, for almost 60 years, 49 of them at Sotheby’s and 10 as a consultant for Bonhams.
Like almost all of members of the trade and those, like me, in the auction business, I am appalled at the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. I applaud the stances which ATG and the British Art Market Federation (BAMF) have taken to protect the legitimate trade in antique ivory works of art, but fear the proposed system of certification that BAMF has put forward is not the answer.
An auction house or dealer specialising in, say, Japanese antique netsuke or English miniatures, is likely to have a sale or stock of one or two hundred examples at any one time.
How to certify?
If each one needed to be certified I wonder how this would be accomplished.
Would the vendor take all the items to a museum or another independent expert? How many independent experts would have the time for such an onerous task? The enormous, time-consuming amount of form-filling and box-ticking is the stuff of nightmares.
I would advocate a licensing scheme, not unlike that offered to those dealers and auctioneers selling firearms.
A licence could be requested and, upon making the correct answers to appropriate questions and paying the fee, the licence could be granted. Spot checks could then be made and, should the licensee be found to be selling ivory items produced since 1947, the licence would be revoked.
This would be a far less bureaucratic method of dealing with the problem.
Neil Davey, Japanese art consultant