Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Read It Here First

As the proposed Federal ban on ivory emerges from the dark halls of congress, more and more people are becoming concerned about how it will affect their lives and the future of any cultural object which contains ivory.  Today, the online magazine Antiques posted an insightful article which addresses this issue in some detail.

Read it here:Online Antiques Magazine: Banning Ivory
Please click on the link in this article to read the text of the ban.

Of course, I posted last December the news that this ban was being formulated, and that there was an urgent need for public input before it went too far.  However, as the Antiques article notes, only one member of the committee who worked on this proposed legislation had any connection with the market place, and that was ebay.

As the article also suggests, it may become necessary in the future, in order to sell your antique piano, that you will have to remove all the ivory keys and have them replaced with plastic.  A note of irony here, in that plastic is made from petroleum.  The logic of this is that we throw away the remains of dead elephants and replace them with the remains of dead dinosaurs!

Looking to the future, I live in a home which is full of period furniture made from Cuban mahogany.  I just purchased last week a wonderful large English Renaissance cabinet made of Brazilian rosewood.  Since both of these materials are also listed on the CITIES endangered species list, do I need to consider sending them to the landfill and buying IKEA replacements, also made with toxic chemical components?

For years I have collected early 19th century American clocks with wood works.  Naturally, all the bushings in these works are little pieces of ivory.  Should I take all the clocks apart and replace the bushings with plastic?

Last week I had a series of frantic calls from a rich client in San Francisco who was concerned about the flame retardant chemicals and petroleum based foam upholstery in her modern Italian sofa.  She wanted the modern look but asked me if I could completely replace the upholstery with jute, cotton, muslin, burlap and horsehair.  When I looked into the construction of the frame, I found it was tubular steel, like a car seat.  The only part I could keep, should I take the job, would be the iron feet.

She also told me that the use of horsehair stuffing was "illegal" in San Francisco.  I found that hard to believe, so I contacted F.P. Woll & Co., in Philadelphia, where I purchase horsehair, and asked them if they knew of anyplace in the country where horsehair is "illegal.  They laughed.

I suspect that the upholsterers in San Francisco don't really know how to work with traditional materials any more, so they just use the excuse that it is "illegal" to be able to sell their foam and staples.  Just a theory.

Where are we headed, if all the traditional materials used in the creation of wonderful works of art are lost or forbidden, only to be replaced with modern man made substitutes?

Just asking.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Proposed Ivory Ban

As I posted several months ago, the proposed language for a ban on ivory is being circulated through the federal process, and will appear later this year for a vote.  It is important for those affected by this legislation to have their voices heard at this time.

I have noted that several countries, including the US and China, have publicly destroyed tons of illegal ivory, in an effort to demonstrate that trafficking in this material will not be tolerated.  I support this action, to a certain degree, but wonder about its effectiveness.

It seems to me that, like international drug trade, the poaching of ivory and wholesale killing of elephants will continue, regardless of laws, as long as there is a black market.  Thus, the destruction of confiscated ivory will have little effect on eliminating the problem.

I have noted that, for the past 50 years, government agents have seized drugs and destroyed them, with no real damage to the drug trade.  Drug dealer just consider the seizure of their inventory and cash as a part of the business.  It really doesn't stop them.

There is a simple solution, which is why it probably hasn't been considered.  That solution is to stop the poachers where they are working.  Stop them in the fields where the elephants are living.  Put our energies into making it dangerous for the poachers to practice their horrible trade.

Today the New York Times ran an editorial in support of the proposed ban.  The headline was "Banning Ivory Sales in America."  The lead paragraph states that 30,000 to 35,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year.  This is unacceptable.  How many poachers are arrested each year?  The editorial doesn't mention that figure.  How much money is allocated for elephant protection?  Again, no indication of the financial commitment to protect these creatures.

The language being considered will prohibit "all commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques," and it will "prohibit exports except for certified antiques.  Sales of elephant ivory across state lines will be prohibited, unless the ivory is demonstrably more than 100 years old.  And ivory sales will be prohibited within a state unless the seller can demonstrate that the ivory was lawfully imported before 1900." "People can still own ivory and pass heirlooms to descendants."

The editorial continues, suggesting that those who make their living in this evil trade will probably not worry too much about forging documents, so that makes it obvious that this legislation will not be effective, except to limit legitimate transactions.

This is a very poor solution for a very serious problem.