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what is ivory worth?

3 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

At $200 an ounce, a conservative evaluation of the trade in illegal ivory comes in around $1.44 billion a year—enough to motivate some people to kill.

Avinash Rock
Answer # 2 #

More ivory is being smuggled than at any time since the 1989 trade ban, as well. A record-breaking 24 metric tons of contraband ivory were seized in 2011. The totals for 2012 are not yet available, but almost certainly will exceed the 2011 levels.

Customs officers in industrialized countries candidly acknowledge that a seizure rate of 10 percent is considered good for “general goods” contraband—which includes ivory. (Higher success rates are recorded in intercepting targeted contraband, such as drugs and weapons, which have dedicated teams with specialized training and high-tech detection equipment.) Thus, the seizure of 24 tons of ivory would indicate 240 tons actually in trade. That’s the ivory of 24,000 elephants. It is likely, however, that even more illegal ivory is traded, because 10 percent seizure is optimum for a developed country that is serious about intercepting contraband. Much ivory today is going to countries that are not very serious about intercepting it.

More African park rangers are being killed in the line of duty than ever before, most often via ambush. Five Chadian rangers were massacred during their early morning prayers near Zakouma National Park a few months ago. Kenya Wildlife Service suffered eight recent fatalities. More than 100 rangers are killed each year because they stand between the elephants and the poachers. Nearly every African country with elephant populations has been hit.

INTERPOL has acknowledged the involvement of organized crime syndicates in the ivory trade. US officials have cited “credible reports” of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) being involved in both poaching and trafficking. There is also very substantial evidence implicating various other genocidal militias and terror groups, such as the Somali Al Shabaab and Sudan’s Janjaweed and Abu Tira organizations. They are enriching and arming themselves with the profits of contraband ivory.

The motive behind all the carnage, of course, is money. An African poacher can get $80 for a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of ivory. That’s $800 for the 10 kilograms of ivory carried by a typical elephant. That’s a lot of money in most African countries. But the big profit is made in Asia. Thai Customs recently evaluated smuggled ivory as being worth $1,800 per kilogram—$18,000 per elephant—wholesale. The “street value” retail price of 10 kilograms of carved ivory now runs about $60,000. In fact, the price of ivory is increasing so rapidly that some people apparently are buying it as an investment commodity.

For contraband ivory to have any value, however, it needs to be laundered—made “clean” and slipped into a legal system. This is not particularly difficult because there is a lot of legal ivory in marketplaces around the world. All a trafficker needs to do is to smuggle the ivory through customs, and a 10 percent loss to customs seizures is clearly acceptable to most traffickers. (In fact, it’s cheaper than sales tax in many countries.) Once past customs, the ivory needs to enter a clandestine industrial process of being inventoried, graded, processed in factories, marketed, distributed, and then mixed with existing legal ivory that can be found openly on sale from Zhonghua Road in Shanghai to Fifth Avenue in New York.

This already volatile situation was thrown into crisis this past October when Tanzania announced its proposal to legalize 101 tons of stockpiled ivory and sell it to Asian buyers—a move that would further stimulate the fashion for ivory and provide an even larger legal umbrella under which an expanding volume of poached contraband ivory could be laundered. Clearly, such an outcome would result in more killing of elephants and park rangers. The Tanzanian proposal was made to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations-administered endangered species treaty which has the authority to make decisions regarding the legalization of ivory and other wildlife products.

The proposal drew a storm of criticism, with vocal protests from conservation and animal welfare advocates both inside Tanzania and abroad. Tanzanian government officers had acknowledged that the country was suffering the loss of at least 10,000 elephants annually to commercial poaching gangs. How could Tanzania, a country which suffers more elephant poaching than any other country on earth, a country which has exported more illegal ivory than any other country on earth, make a proposal that was certain to fuel even greater poaching and trafficking? At the end of December, after 10 weeks of furious uproar, the Government of Tanzania tactfully withdrew its proposal.

The fight behind closed doors within the Tanzanian government certainly was intense. But ultimately, the voices who opposed the sale—which likely could have brought Tanzania more than 50 million dollars—prevailed. Local newspapers report that the decision to withdraw the proposal was announced by Professor Alexander Songorwa, Tanzania’s Director of Wildlife, who simply said that the country was unable to meet some of the 24 conditions for legalized sale required by CITES. But the Tanzanians knew they could never meet the CITES conditions long before they made their proposal. And they also knew that such specific conditions had never before been a determining factor at CITES, where hard and fast politics have long run roughshod over the most flawless of scientific arguments. The only things that really count at CITES are the votes.

Many observers think Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, recently appointed as Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, is the principal architect of Tanzania’s about-face. Within days of announcing the withdrawal of Tanzania’s proposal to sell its ivory stockpile, Kagasheki’s ministry announced a series of commendable new initiatives targeting ivory poachers and dealers in Tanzania and abroad:

A national law enforcement campaign to crack down on poaching gangs and smuggling syndicates; A readiness to participate in a UN effort to act against the LRA; The dismissal of several senior officers from the ministry’s Wildlife Department for poor performance; An offer to host an international conference on elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in 2013, with the intention of creating a new plan of cooperative action against the ivory syndicates.

That’s surely an ambitious agenda, and a major turn-about for Tanzania. But how should it be received by the rest of the world? That should depend upon how long Tanzania might be expected to hold out an olive branch.

Tanzania has a checkered history with elephant politics. In 1989, the country was a very conspicuous leader in the campaign to abolish all trade in elephant ivory. Domestic actions, such as Operation Uhai, established very high standards for other countries to emulate. But later shifts within ministries and departments resulted in Tanzania becoming a champion of renewed trade in elephant ivory, persistently seeking to overturn the CITES ban. Much, of course, depends upon the person appointed as minister responsible for wildlife conservation.

Nevertheless, decisions made today will influence the security of elephants tomorrow. Thus, people who want to protect the great pachyderms should applaud Ambassador Kagasheki’s initiatives and extend enthusiastic support. Tanzania needs to understand that its recent decisions are very much welcomed and admired.

Applause for Tanzania, however, will not fundamentally alter the existing dynamics of the ivory trade. If something is to be done, the markets in Asia ultimately must be addressed. These markets provide the financial incentives for all of the shooting and tragedy.

The United States has recently been very conspicuous in expressing concern over the ivory issue. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited African countries to assess the situation, and promised a new surge of American support. During his time in the Senate, incoming Secretary of State John Kerry led Foreign Relations Committee hearings on elephant poaching and trafficking in ivory. And other activity in Washington indicates new resolve to address the ivory issue.

But the conspicuous part of the U.S. effort appears focused on Africa. Certainly, Africans do need help. Modestly trained and equipped African rangers are facing very sophisticated poaching gangs that are armed to the teeth with assault rifles and equipped with aircraft, satellite telephones, GPS units, and other sophisticated gadgets. It is unfair, and absolutely unreasonable, to expect developing countries in Africa to have the resources needed to contend with criminal abuses that are fueled by very dynamic and wealthy markets of Asia.

Someone needs to start talking to the Asian nations. The media has been flooded with articles reporting ivory seizures in Asia over the past couple of years. Tons of ivory have been seized in the ports of Bangkok and Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere. But there have been no reports of any kingpins being arrested, or any syndicates broken. Nor have there been reports of stockpiles being seized or factories being shut down.

Yet these stockpiles and factories must exist. With hundreds of tons of ivory being smuggled into Asia annually, the stuff must be somewhere. With carved ivory available in retail shops in virtually every Asian city, there must be ample carving factories working hard to produce a flood of contraband finished products.

Let’s do the financial math, using the signature seal—also known as a “chop” or a “hanko”—as our example. We could use other products in our exercise—anything from bracelets to fancy carvings. And those expensive items certainly would drive our price estimates higher. But the signature seal business is a fairly typical example and serves as a good baseline estimate.

The signature seal is a very common product that many Asians use in their daily lives. They are used in place of a handwritten signature on a check, and on all sorts of other documents, from bank loans to taxi receipts. Any place an American would write a signature, many Asians would use their personal signature seals. Certainly, most Asians use signature seals made of plastic, or wood, or carved stone, or some other material. But some see ivory as being more fashionable or prestigious.

A typical ivory signature seal weighs about 30 grams, (a bit more than one ounce) and retails for about $200. About 30 signature seals (with total weight 900 grams) can be fashioned from one kilogram of raw ivory (estimating about 10 percent wastage during the carving process). Thirty signature seals at $200 each indicates that one kilogram of worked ivory retails for about $6,000.

There are at least 240 metric tons in annual trade. At $200 an ounce, a conservative evaluation of the trade in illegal ivory comes in around $1.44 billion a year—enough to motivate some people to kill. And they do.

W.R. Majgavkar
Answer # 3 #

Ivory is one of the most valuable African jewels and in many African nations, it used to be highly valued and prized, as it used to be marked as the status symbol among richer African people. What made it an excellent choice for making different antique elements and objects is that it’s surprisingly easy to carve into and then shape into whatever object you’d like. However, the animal cruelty behind extracting and exploiting ivory makes it illegal and banned in most the countries.

This ban makes people extremely careful when wanting to buy ivory and avoid illegal ways to obtain it. Most people buy antique or vintage ivory objects in countries where their sale isn’t banned. It’s worth noting that in some countries, it may be permitted to buy antique items made out of ivory, but it’s not allowed to leave the country with them or try to import them to another country.

That being said, due to such strict laws and international regulations, finding the right, sustainable and reliable ivory value is quite difficult. However, if you’re looking for a way to discover the worth of ivory, continue reading to learn the value as well as what regulations you have to meet to own an item made of ivory.

Ivory is considered a sacred material in the African nations, and it’s often exported from China as well, with it being one of the biggest ivory makers. Ivory refers to the material also known as massive elephant tusks that protrude from their mouth.

They are deeply rooted and have seen their practice in different industries. What’s more, people who were capable of hunting down elephants throughout history were considered wealthy, as ivory represented the status of wealth and very high social status. Given the tusks are massive, they could be used for designing objects and instruments that highlighted someone’s social status.

The reason ivory is so useful is that the composition of the elephant tusk enabled it to be useful for various applications. An elephant tusk consists of dense tissue that is wrapped in a hard enamel. Although the enamel makes the tusk insanely hard and massive, it’s still possible to carve it into different shapes which is what intrigued the nations that encountered ivory.

As elephants become a rarer sighting to see and are getting more protected, their tusks included, the price and value of ivory fueled. Different Asian countries held a monopoly on the ivory value which made it skyrocket on the black market, but also in legal markets in countries remains legal.

On the black market, ivory can be as worth as gold, and the price continues to grow as ivory regulations become stricter and are seen to be more banned in the countries where it’s popular to import it. As mentioned above, ivory can be used for a lot of things. Piano and organ keys are made out of ivory, as are different decorations, dishes, billiard balls, and many other items.

Even the modern industry has benefited from ivory as more electrical appliances and other electronics contain it in the circuits. Many industries adopted synthetic ivory which was made to replace the original one, which lowers the demand for natural ivory in some industries.

One of the mistakes people commonly make when they want to sell or buy ivory is that they mix it for a bone. The easiest way to see that they are different is that ivory has a smoother texture compared to bone which feels significantly harder and rougher.

That being said, if the object that was “made out of ivory” feels rougher when you touch it, that means it’s a bone and not an elephant tusk it was made. On the other hand, ivory will feel smooth to the touch and give that buttery sensation. Below we’ll talk more about confirming the ivory authenticity.

One of the biggest problems with ivory and the way it’s sold and bought is that many regulations and bans represent serious obstacles and problems for those who sell them or want to collect them. Elephant ivory is especially difficult to obtain. Many people think that the bans are inconvenient, to say the least, but the fines are enormously high if you break any of the regulations.

State federal laws are there to reduce the killing of elephants, as they are approaching the mark that will make them endangered. Some of the regulations and documents you will have to own to buy or sell ivory will be listed below.

As mentioned earlier, the skyrocketing prices of ivory made its value enormous, even worth more than gold. But, it’s worth mentioning that, unlike gold, ivory is illegally sold. One report has even found that most of the ivory items in Europe are made out of ivory that was obtained in illegal ways. Particularly, items from Spain, Bulgaria, and Italy were 100% illegal, while ivory-made items in France are 80% illegal.

It’s worth mentioning that ivory can’t be sold in Europe since 1990. However, the same ban doesn’t apply to antique items made of ivory. According to strict EU laws, all ivory items made before 1947 are considered antique and can still be traded without any boundaries or implications.

There are also items made of ivory from 1947 to 1990, and while those can’t be traded freely, nor outside the EU, it’s worth mentioning that you can still trade them if you have the special permit granted by the EU administration.

According to the same article, both China and US banned domestic ivory sales, except for certain entities which have permission. After the ban from China and the USA, the UK administration followed the same decision shortly after, but with even stricter rules.

It’s impossible to give the specific price for ivory as it’s mainly sold on the black market. As stated in the disclaimer earlier, this article serves only informational purposes, which means that we can’t track live prices of ivory.

However, based on the reports that carefully follow the developments in the ivory black markets, some prices are estimated to be from $597/kg to $689/kg in Asia. The value of ivory has decreased significantly since the pandemic broke out in 2020, as also all the bans that have been put in place. That being said, according to The Revelator, ivory in Africa costs around $92/kg.

At the same time, you’ll have to cash $200 for an ounce of ivory, while a pound of ivory starts at around $3,300.

Whether you have legal needs to buy or sell ivory, below is everything you need to know about what owning or trying to sell ivory entails. Continue reading to confirm you have all the necessary documentation before you opt to sell Ivory.

If you want to trade or sell an antique ivory item or a collectible, you should check if it is eligible for the ESA antique exemption. That being said, if you want to sell ivory within the state you live in, here are the conditions you need to meet.

If the item you’re trying to sell or buy is partially made out of African elephant ivory, there’s another exemption you need to fall into other than that of ESA, known as the De Minimis Exemption.

Keep in mind that you won’t need to focus on this exemption if you’re trying to buy or sell an item made out of ivory extracted from Asian elephants and refers to that from Africa. The reason we emphasized this partially earlier is that De Minimis Exemption doesn’t apply if the product was made fully out of ivory. Here are the conditions that the item must meet.

Keep in mind that in addition to the already-known bans and exemptions we mentioned above, it’s important to note that ivory is permanently banned in certain states such as California, Washington, New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Federal laws can be pretty strict when it comes to keeping ivory-made items and selling them, but some state-imposed bans can be even stricter.

Additionally, sports trophies made out of ivory and brought to the USA are also prohibited for sale, while ivory-made items which were previously used to conduct scientific studies and research, as well as part of different investigations, including law enforcement investigations are banned for sale.

The subject of ivory is quite delicate, as well as broad. We collected commonly asked questions about selling and buying ivory now that there are bans and strict regulations.

If the item made of ivory you’re trying to buy has all the necessary documents with it, which are authentic and reliable, you’ll easily know it’s real ivory. Nevertheless, there are ways to physically examine the dots, the hardness of the materials, and the tunnels which are prominent on ivory. You’ll know that the real ivory doesn’t have striations, so most of the things you need to know you can learn through observing the tunnels.

If the texture feels rough like that of a bone, or even plasticky, you’ll know that it’s not an authentic ivory piece. If you’re still unsure after a physical exam, take an appraiser with you who can confirm it’s authentic ivory.

Essentially, it is illegal if you don’t meet the necessary law regulations and exemptions that allow you to own it. Check the regulative section of this article to learn more.

Yes, chemical coloring where the ivory was exposed to a moist environment is to blame. Think of it like corrosion, except that ivory changes color to a yellowish-brown texture called patina. The more of that pigmentation is there, the older the ivory.

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Karan Vishwasrao