This March, LET’S LEARN ABOUT…Ivory!
What is ivory?
Ivory is a white, smooth substance made of a bony tissue called dentine. It comes from the tusks or teeth of elephants, hippopotamuses, walruses, wild boar, and some whales, such as narwhals. It can even be obtained from the fossils of mammoths!
What is ivory used for?
People began carving objects from ivory thousands of years ago in places like Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China. It has been used to make everything from decorative objects and sculptures to furniture and game pieces. Until the 1980s, ivory was also widely used to make piano keys (sometimes called “ivories”), billiard balls, and other items.
Why is ivory so highly regarded?
Beautiful and durable, ivory is easy to carve and has a smooth, lustrous appearance. Over thousands of years craftsmen developed special tools to work with the material, allowing it to be sawed, carved, engraved, and polished to a high shine. It can also be bleached, stained with dyes and colourants, or painted.
Elephant ivory has been particularly prized since ancient times for the creation of small sculptures. Other sources of ivory limit the size of the objects that can be carved, but the tusks of the African elephant can grow to about 2 metres in length.
SAVING THE ELEPHANTS
The ivory objects in our collection were made hundreds of years ago. Now, there are laws in many countries that ban the buying and selling of ivory. This is to protect our wildlife and stop the killing of at-risk species. However, ivory products continue to be secretly sold in Asia and other parts of the world, endangering the survival of many animals.
Singapore bans trade in elephant ivory
Singapore banned the international trade of all forms of elephant ivory in 1990. In September 2021, the sale of all ivory products (purchased before 1990) within Singapore was also prohibited, demonstrating Singapore’s determination to fight against the illegal trade in endangered animals.