Ivory in bow frogs: Is it a problem for US Customs

June 6, 2007 at 01:27 AM · I am considering buying a Hill bow set in Ivory and gold. I hear that i might have problems bringing this bow to different countries including bringing it home to US. Can somebody tell me if you had experience or know where i can find information about customs policies regarding Ivory.

Thank you in advance.

Svetlana.

Replies (70)

June 6, 2007 at 02:24 AM · You will need to check with the bureau of Fish, Game & Wildlife to determine exactly what paperwork is required for safe border crossings. That is really the only place to get a "real" answer. The CITES restrictions for personal use items depend on age of manufacture and type of ivory.

While it may be possible to transport items containing ivory or tortoise that were made before the treaty was enacted (I think it was 1972), commercial transport is restricted to antiques (over 100 yrs. old)... and then only possible with a license.

Many bows are actually at risk (ivory was used for face plates too). This doesn't mean that ivory on bows don't pass over borders on a daily basis without being stopped, however...

Jeffrey

June 13, 2007 at 09:24 PM · yes, excellent advice Jeffrey.

Check these out as well:

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/prohibited_restricted.xml#FishandWildlife

http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa.html

June 13, 2007 at 09:57 PM · It is not a big problem if the bow is antique (more than 100 years old). If it is less than 100 years old, they may need proof of how old the actual ivory piece is.

Having copies of the certificate for the bow is a must if it is in ivory or tortoise-shell.

Vsego Horoshego Sveta.

June 13, 2007 at 10:13 PM · I don't think it will hurt if the ivory is already made into the bow. They can't stop you, well they can, but even so it's too late the bow has been made. I think it's only a law to where you can't take ivory and make it in the U.S.

June 13, 2007 at 10:36 PM · Even if someone opened your violin case I don't think it would ever occur to any inspector to examine the bow for ivory. I would be surprised if they knew what a frog is or anything about the material it is made from. If some over zealous inspector questioned it you could always say it is ivorine or celluloid. They are more likely to ask you about the white powder on your violin.

June 13, 2007 at 11:09 PM · Michael, they're smarter than that. They have watch-for lists like:

"VIOLIN BOW" - A thin, long rod of wood often in case with "VIOLIN". Check "VIOLIN BOW" for fittings made of IVORY. If IVORY is suspected, follow procedure in Section 1.202 - IVORY IS SUSPECTED. If the fittings are determined to be IVORY, follow procedure in Section 2.0 - ARTICLES MADE OF IVORY and Section 2.1 - HANDLING OF CONFISCATED ITEMS.

June 13, 2007 at 11:17 PM · Sean,

don't presume and or assume anything.

This is serious stuff.

It is actually more serious, when shipping antique bows with such fittings.

I have had to go through these elaborate hoops, for an 1840 bow with ivory frog, which was going abroad via fedex.

It was not fun, but everything had to be in order.

June 14, 2007 at 12:52 AM · Just curious. I thought that if one owned a violin bow that had an ivory tip or frog that was for personal use it would be legal to travel with it. Otherwise couldn't customs confiscate almost any violin bow that had a suspicious tip or frog? How can artists travel with their violins without fear of confiscation especially if there are watch lists that single out their bows. Wouldn't this be a problem for any musician who has an instrument such as a guitar with suspicious parts? I know my daughter traveled abroad with her violin and had no problems. Was she just lucky? How do orchestras tour with their instruments that might have contraband parts?

June 14, 2007 at 02:18 AM · Actually I'm not assuming or presuming. When I went to Korea and came back from Korea they only asked what was in the case. I told them a violin and they just said OK go right right on.

June 14, 2007 at 02:33 AM · Most of the time it is like that. But there are horror stories.

Things are always changing:

"The U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species added brazilwood to the list of nearly 40,000 species it regulates. Originally, the guidelines would have required violinists to carry permits when bringing their brazilwood bows through customs, but they got a last-minute reprieve; only travelers transporting raw wood will need permits. "

see http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=11467

June 14, 2007 at 03:02 AM · Your right, but when it's on an U.S. facility, which many are, it's against the law for people to open up bags and check them, it goes against the U.S. constitution which says that people may have freedom of private property and the only thing that can change that is from a judge and a search warrant, which, I doubt they would do for every instrumentalist that passes through the doors of the airplane, but when it's on other airports then it's okay to check bags.

June 14, 2007 at 03:06 AM · Sean,

in todays post Sep.11 world, if you don't open your bag/instrument when asked, you don't fly.

I had a close call, when those guys wanted to open the case without me, I refused. I said, I am happy to open for you, but please let me do it etc. etc. we argued for a few minutes then I asked for the person in charge. They simply said if you don't open, you don't fly.

I explained that please open it, but let me do it for you....luckily they obliged.

June 14, 2007 at 03:12 AM · Your right on that, but, of course, that was during the Sept. 11 attack. Not all airports will do that though, well since there has not been much going on outside Iraq, it will go through the screening and then they will ask you what is inside the bag before you get on, maybe a few will be asked to open their cases and they won't even give a thought about the ivory and brazilwood, since many people don't take environmental safety seriously, and I highly doubt they could just call off bows made with ivory or brazilwood. But what I do know is that when they asked you to open your bag that was against your rights as an American citizen, they should not have done that, the screening process should have picked up whatever dangerous stuff could have been in your bag. And even the smallest suspicion of what's inside is probably what had triggered their senses of something dangerous. That is most likely why your bag was checked.

June 14, 2007 at 03:26 AM · there was only my fiddle and bows, nothing extravagant.

I hear ya, but we are talking about living in post Sep.11 world.

There are those who are more judicious about doing their job and take it seriously.

June 14, 2007 at 03:33 AM · Your right but while some do, there are always those many people who hate their job and don't care what goes in or out, those are the ones who are fired or goes to jail, but after these many years the people who search your bag(I'm hoping you carry your instrument on) have cooled down on searching every single bag. They think it's safer now with the war on terrorism which it's not. So right now the people are not doing their jobs as well as right after Sept. 11. But the airport Incheon really makes sure their are no one taking suspicious items on, they have two guards every 20-40 feet away from each other. Each guard has a hand gun on their side and a I think they had M-16's strapped onto their shoulders didn't get a good look. Plus the guys had body armor and they had detectors about 30 feet from each other. They took so much caution. They questioned my mom for bringing, I think a comb while I had my violin strapped to my back and they didn't even take a second look at it.

June 14, 2007 at 07:54 PM · Michael wrote: "Just curious. I thought that if one owned a violin bow that had an ivory tip or frog that was for personal use it would be legal to travel with it. Otherwise couldn't customs confiscate almost any violin bow that had a suspicious tip or frog?"

The short answer: Yes. Without the proper accompanying paperwork, if a restricted material is present, they can.

Just because there has not been too much trouble with bows at the border at this point does not mean that the rules allow unrestricted transport... or that the rules will be enforced at the same level at all ports of entry. Thinking it's OK is like saying that since I haven't received a ticket for going 5 or 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, it's legal. It's not... and you can get a ticket for doing so.

Again, if you want to get the "real" answers, contact Fish & Wildlife. I've had good experiences with the agents on staff there... informative and helpful. Debating what "should be", or "makes sense" to you, and then following through on your assumptions, may put your property at risk. Agree with it or not, CITES is an international treaty. Once a restriction is adopted and in place, they really don't care too much what you think. :-)

Like Gennady, I have a decent amount of experience with the commercial end of things. I have held licenses for import/export of restricted materials... and yes, even when making my best effort to follow the rules, I've had a bow or two confiscated (there is a clause that mentions that the item in question cannot have been "altered" or reworked after the treaty... I found this out the hard way). I know of a rather well known auction house had difficulties a year or so ago with tortoise and ivory.

In some cases, the item is recoverable. In many cases, it's not.

Jeffrey

June 14, 2007 at 03:36 PM · Check this out http://www.bluegrasswales.org/CITES.htm

If all this is true I don't know how one has the nerve to travel with valuable instruments. I guess the regulations are not evenly applied or enforced. It is scary to think that a musician on an overseas engagement theoretically could have their instrument confiscated, go to prison for 7 years and pay unlimited fines. The world is truly #%#% up.

June 14, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Well even so Fish & Wildlife do not have the power to make you open your case, EVEN if they feel suspicious about your violin. Only a judge can decide that. Anyways if it has already been made they can't take it from you, for it would be on the head of the maker. They are still going against the constitution. Article four says you have the right to be secure of your belongings unless there is probable cause. Five says No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

June 14, 2007 at 11:46 PM · What you seem to be missing is that while normally they aren't going to force you to open it, if you don't open it, they can force you to turn around and go back where you came from.

If I had a bow with ivory on it, and needed to travel with it frequently, I'd have the ivory replaced with something else and put the ivory and its documentation in safekeeping.

A complication to this is that some poor African countries are allowed to export a certain amount of new ivory legally. I was astounded that there are places on the web where you can buy it, apparently legally, for your arts and crafts... Incidently, the normal way to hunt those elephants is with a machine gun.

June 14, 2007 at 11:58 PM · They can only ask. They cannot force you or turn you around. They can hold you until further questioning and until they have cops with a warrant but they cannot force you to open it right there. And anyways, violins go through screening.

June 15, 2007 at 12:12 AM · "They cannot force you or turn you around"

I never saw anybody take anything so literally before.

June 15, 2007 at 02:29 AM · "They can only ask. They cannot force you or turn you around. They can hold you until further questioning and until they have cops with a warrant but they cannot force you to open it right there. And anyways, violins go through screening."

Give me a break...

One way or another, if they want to look, you won't get through until they get a chance to look.

June 15, 2007 at 03:01 AM · I'm just saying the only way they can look if you say no is when the cops come. Then you run for your life.

June 15, 2007 at 05:43 PM · Never mind... not worth it.

June 15, 2007 at 04:36 PM · Search and seizure is a different issue from airport screeings.

Search and seizure has do do with law enforcement viz a viz suspected criminal activity.

Airport screenings are not subject to constitutional protections: by buying a ticket, you agree to the screenings.

People get this sort of thing confused. Yesterday I saw an old (1996)"American Riflemen" (NRA publication) in which the magazine was giving flack to Blockbuster Video, essentially encouraging members to avoid doing business there. The reason: Blockbuster had instituted a policy of disallowing firearms in their stores.

The NRA took this as an affront to those who have a permit to carry. Somehow or other the magazine editorial staff failed to recognize that a store is *private property* (as is an airplane by the way) and that all property owners have a constitutional right to restrict access and behavior on their property!

June 15, 2007 at 04:56 PM · What makes you think they didn't realize Blockbuster is "private property"? You're talking about 1996. People were smarter then. 2006, I could see it.

June 15, 2007 at 05:06 PM · Exemption Approved for Travel with Bows

June 15, 2007, Washington, D.C. – Orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally may continue to travel with their bows, after winning an exemption during negotiations at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The international community met over the past two weeks to determine whether to include the Brazilian pernambuco tree on the endangered species list. Most fine bows used by string musicians are made from pernambuco wood. Negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to “logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets…,” specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to cumbersome CITES permit and certification requirements.

June 15, 2007 at 05:43 PM · Clinton... That exemption is specific to pernambuco... it does not include other restricted materials (ivory/tortoise).

June 15, 2007 at 10:29 PM · Quote by Jeffrey Holmes-

Never mind... not worth it.

Hey if you want to gang up on someone do it elsewhere because I'm sick of it. It's every single discussion I've been to about bows someone always have to try to prove me wrong. Is it because I'm young? Maybe that's why, am I right? Am I stupid? For my age I have been flying on planes more than many adults. I've traveled every three years of my life and now you think you know everything there is to know about planes. I know I'm right. I will stick to it.

If your going to say stuff like that take it else where because I'm trying to make a decent point but I can't, if you guys don't listen. I'm not trying to be mean or anything, it's just when you go into a conversation like this you have to look at it through two points not just your own.

June 16, 2007 at 12:02 AM · Sean, Jeffrey is a dealer and appraiser who does a fair amount of shipping and traveling with instruments and bows.

I recognize that you have some travel experience. You might not have any problems 25 times, but on the 26th, you lose your equipment. I think Jeffrey would like to protect us all, and I'm sure that I'd be grateful for any advice I received from him on traveling with instruments.

We have many rights in the US, but flying is not one of them. If you attempt to assert your "rights" at an airport, you may be refused boarding, or wind up on a "watch list" which will make future flying problematic.

This all may be less than our founding fathers intended, but it's just the way it is for now.

June 16, 2007 at 07:45 AM · Do you get the bow back once it is confiscated? And what's this about being able to make your own rules on your private property, even if they defy the constitution?

June 16, 2007 at 07:55 AM · You get the bow back after school, as long as you promise not to bring it again.

June 16, 2007 at 08:26 AM · I'm making a regulation that bans wallets in my house.

June 16, 2007 at 08:36 AM · I ban pants, so wallets are moot.

June 18, 2007 at 12:36 PM · Not defying the constitution: to disallow guns, or pants or yellow shirts or ivory bow frogs on your property is not illegal. Private property is not a protection for illegal behavior, yet a constitutional right to protected speech, firearms, and the right to vote does not extend to private places and private matters--i.e it is perfectly leagal to have an all-male club, or a club where the club elections are voted for only by the members with brown eyes.

The sticky wicket is that some private property is of a public nature and for that reason we have anti-discrimination laws etc (which are on top of the constitutional foundations) for things like shopping or working in a grocery store. Note however that without an anti-discrimination statute, the constitution doesn't protect your rights--the constitution proscribes the creation of unjust laws but on the other hand it takes laws (rather than the constitution) to bring law enforcement to bear on behavior.

June 18, 2007 at 03:13 PM · First, if your bow is confiscated, you typically (almost always) don't get it back. Your best bet at that unfortunate time is to remove the frog, cut the hair and keep the bow. Very sad, but better something kept than lose the whole bow.

Second, the current CITES listing for Pernambuco, only applies to the wood of the bow. If you have an ivory or tortoise shell frog, that is still on the banned list (as opposed to Pernambuco which is on the restricted list).

Third, if I had an Ivory frog on a newer bow, I might carry a paper which lists my frog as being Mastodon Ivory (legal) rather than Elephant Ivory (illegal unless you have papers). They do sell Elephant Ivory which was confiscated from poachers, I recently read where a large amount was going to be auctioned later this year, but this supply then has papers which the bow maker should supply along with the bow. The reason I would use the "Mastodon defense" is that many customs agents can recognize Ivory, but I would wager that far fewer can tell the difference between Mastodon Ivory and Elephant Ivory (although any bow maker should be able to).

While I don't condone either the sale or use of Elephant Ivory or fibbing to customs agents, I also don't condone losing (and having destroyed) a beautiful bow, so having a friend make a "letter of appraisal" listing the frog as Mastodon might save some big problems down the road.

Oh, and by the way, the CITES listings are a world organization's rules, so an individual countries rights and rules stop at that countries borders, while the banned list covers all countries (that are part of the CITES agreements).

June 18, 2007 at 04:41 PM · Angelo, you might want to remove that post of yours before it gets archived by google. That writing is a very bad thing to have out in public.

June 18, 2007 at 10:03 PM · Interestingly enough, there is a forensic lab in Oregon to which Customs sends ivory to determine if it's elephant or mastodon. The angle that the end grain cross- hatching intersects is different in the two species.

I usually send along a business card stating that mastodon was used when I make ivory collars for a set of pegs, but I don't know if it does the trick. If this lab is running at capacity and the agent is scrupulous it would be easy but inconvenient for them to check out the claim that mastodon was used instead of elephant, thus tying up your instrument or bow for a while.

June 19, 2007 at 12:06 AM · Ivory and Brazillian rosewood need to be seen as the ugly things they really are. It doesn't matter when items using them were made, or when some law went into effect.

June 19, 2007 at 12:40 AM · Bilbo,

Since I don't ship bows overseas, and since my shop is far from any border (except my friends at our southern neighbor) and since I do suggest getting papers (or not buying a bow with Ivory), I guess I'm safe.

June 19, 2007 at 05:27 PM · Safe from what, Angelo? The stupidity that makes you think it's fine to drive a species to extinction will keep you from realizing what you wrote will alienate some customers. I always thought you were a decent guy, but I wouldn't buy a chunk of rosin from you now. How many hundreds or thousands have you just cost yourself?

Plus, any "friend" who writes an illegal phony certificate the way you suggest is endangering himself because it won't stay a secret.

June 19, 2007 at 07:44 PM · Jim,Jim, Jim....

I can safely say that in the thousands of bows that I have sold, I have NEVER sold one with an elephant Ivory frog. I also have been offered pieces of Ivory for sale, some with papers and sadly some without and have never bought any. I don't approve of any of the poaching going on and am even now outraged that the governments are going to be selling the Ivory confiscated from the poachers, so my conscience, which I have to live with, is clear. I'm sorry that you won't be buying any rosin from me in the future, but since you never did in the past....

As for your comments on Pernambuco being an ugly wood and on a par with Ivory, that is so wrong that it almost boggles my (occasionally small) mind. First, Pernambuco trees are a renewable resource and over 700,000 seedlings have been replanted during the past 10 years alone. The Brazilian government, worldwide bowmakers, Brazilian bow manufacturers, and many Brazilians all have the one goal of protecting Pau Brasil (Pernambuco) and allowing it to be used for the making of fine bows and fittings while increasing the tree to it's former amounts (prior to it's wholesale cutting by many European countries for dye. Sadly, the problem of farmers wanting to cut and sell trees to clear land, combined with the black market trade in Pernambuco have contributed to it's depletion and the hope is that the current CITES regulations will improve this and allow the replanting of seedlings to continue along with the managed use of the mature wood.

As a side note, my comments were intended somewhat in jest, but more to the point of protecting a beautiful treasure (a fine bow) from confiscation rather than a desire to see any new bows made using either Tortoise Shell or Ivory.

June 19, 2007 at 08:08 PM · You gave instructions for circumventing the law, which would encourage the poaching you claim now to be outraged by. What kind of fools do you take people for?

June 22, 2007 at 03:50 PM · "I can safely say that in the thousands of bows that I have sold, I have NEVER sold one with an elephant Ivory frog. "

OK. No Ivory frogs. How 'bout the tip plates, Angelo? ...or are you dealing in only contemporary bows?

June 22, 2007 at 04:24 PM · I've got the dilemma right now of sending a set of pegs to Spain with mastodon collars. Do I just send them and hope for the best or put in a card declaring that they are made from and extict animal? Either way they may not get to the customer, at least for some time.

Trying to explain this to a customer in another language, who is not aware of the difficulty is an added problem. If you declare the item to be mastodon and they send it off to the lab, the customer waits for how long? Jeff, what do you do about sending bows with ivory tips? It's all well and good to be proactive about not using elephant but our forefathers did not distinguish between exotic and rare animals as we have been taught to do. Unfortunately ivory is not an ugly material, but beautiful and perfect for the purpose of a bow tip. Many contemporary bow makers still use it and it is sold by suppliers at every large violin get-together both as tips and on bows. It will take some time and awareness to stop it's utilization, and it does matter when it was originally made. I made many a nut and saddle for old Martin guitars out of it in my youth and you don't go burning an 1890's Martin because it has ivory tuners or the pegs. Ivory was the original plastic for rich people. It's still around on nice stuff and it's a real problem. Actually it's the overabundance of people that is the problem for big and wild animals. My house is built with old growth timber and I'd be lying if I said I wished that it was made from oriented strand board instead, even though I live here to walk in the big trees.

June 22, 2007 at 08:04 PM · "Trying to explain this to a customer in another language, who is not aware of the difficulty is an added problem. If you declare the item to be mastodon and they send it off to the lab, the customer waits for how long? Jeff, what do you do about sending bows with ivory tips? It's all well and good to be proactive about not using elephant but our forefathers did not distinguish between exotic and rare animals as we have been taught to do. Unfortunately ivory is not an ugly material, but beautiful and perfect for the purpose of a bow tip. "

Hi Eric;

When exporting/importing antique items containing ivory (with a license), I include a declaration as well as a certification (from a lab, college, etc.). I imagine the same type of certification would do for mastodon. Again, best to check with the folks at Fish & Game.

Items that are not antique (100 years old) containing ivory or other materials with the same restrictions as ivory cannot be exported/imported for commercial use, period.

The way I look at it is that times change. What was plentiful (ivory, tortoise shell and old growth timber) no longer are... and it's up to us to find renewable replacements as well as to preserve what was produced in the past.

June 22, 2007 at 09:05 PM · I imagine the same type of certification would do for mastodon.

If I didn't send every peg to a lab, they'd still have to take my word for the fact that they were mastodon. Getting a certificate for every peg is not feasible, no matter how much they cost. Trying to do the right thing too but you see my problem. So if someone overseas or in Canada wants to try out a Satory from 1910 what do you do? You certainly don't change the tip plate?

June 22, 2007 at 10:08 PM · "Items that are not antique (100 years old) containing ivory or other materials with the same restrictions as ivory cannot be exported/imported for commercial use, period."

"So if someone overseas or in Canada wants to try out a Satory from 1910 what do you do? You certainly don't change the tip plate? "

He told you his answer already. I hope nobody is so bad off they have to chase every potential sale (at any cost).

June 22, 2007 at 11:05 PM · "So if someone overseas or in Canada wants to try out a Satory from 1910 what do you do? You certainly don't change the tip plate?"

If it has the original ivory tip plate on it, it cannot be exported legally... and since I really don't want to put the bow at risk, if a player who lives outside the country wants it bad enough, they'll have to come here and buy it.

Once they own it, chances are that they will walk right through a border (as most musicians do). While I think there is a small risk in doing this, most musicians seem to tolerate it (at least so far).

If it does not have it's original tip plate, and the replacement that's on it IS ivory (and I planned to export it), I'd probably have it changed.

As far as certifications/mastodon/etc.; I think all you can do is try to get it right. If you clearly state that a substance is not ivory (and state what it is), chances are that Fish & Game may believe you... if you have a letter from a college or lab (even it it's just stating that they tested the raw material), chances are even better that they believe you. If they don't believe you for any reason whatsoever, they have the capacity delay the export or import of your product... but really, there are many ways for customs to mess with product... it's not in anyones best interest to delay things for no-good-reason.

June 22, 2007 at 10:43 PM · If an expensive 18th century violin turned up which had never had its neck altered, I don't think there'd be much concern about changing it to be usable in the 21st century. Why not change a simple bow tip as it becomes necessary?

Nothing would be as encouraging to me here as seeing people show social responsibility. It would really brighten my day. Instead I see mainly sneaky talk.

June 22, 2007 at 11:15 PM · "If an expensive 18th century violin turned up which had never had its neck altered, I don't think there'd be much concern about changing it to be usable in the 21st century. Why not change a simple bow tip as it becomes necessary?"

As I mentioned above; Personally, within reason, I like to see rare items preserved as they were made... Finding a great 18th century fiddle in original condition would be a rare enough event that changing the neck over might give one pause these days... so a great Sartory, made in 1910, with it's original head plate isn't something I'd change over.... nor would it be something I'd try to export (plenty of US clients for that kind of bow anyway... no need to). If the part in question is no longer original (like later ivory tip plate), I'd have no reservations about replacing it with an acceptable material. I don't think either course is sneaky... and a player can still own and use a bow like this without ever exporting it. All they have to do is purchase a contemporary bow with a mastodon or bone tip... or and old Hill with a silver tip that they like... and leave the Sartory at home when they leave the country.

While I think it's a shame that even a perfectly good ivory replacement tip would need to be removed to make a bow legal to export, I certainly understand the need to draw an enforceable line in the sand... trying to "prove" the origin of the ivory used would be pretty much impossible. Considering the results (animal and human cost) of the poaching that exists, ban is probably the only solution... If anyone has a better idea, I'm sure the CITES committee would be interested. :-)

June 23, 2007 at 01:39 AM · If people didn't have their head on backward changing the tip plate to make the bow viable wouldn't affect the value of the bow. :) Someday maybe (I doubt it). Something bad wrong in the human spirit.

June 23, 2007 at 03:14 AM · You know, Jim... for the record... I hadn't mentioned value ($) at all. I mentioned originality and preservation. :-)

June 23, 2007 at 03:38 AM · I just said value :-)

Would you change the winding if it was worn out? Well, ivory tips are sorta "worn out." :) The elephants thank you.

Let's see what are bows made of. Ivory, whalebone, tortise, and an endangered plant species. Somethin's gotta be up with that. It's missing dodo bird feathers and something off a panda.

June 23, 2007 at 04:00 AM · "I just said value :-)"

Fair enough.

"Would you change the winding if it was worn out? Well, ivory tips are sorta "worn out." :) The elephants thank you."

We're talking about bows with some historical significance, right?

Actually, I'd try my best to preserve an original grip (I've handled a good number of old bows that still have them). If it were really worn out, yes, I'd replace it. As for an ivory tip plate, if it was cracked or damaged, I'd replace it using mastodon. If not, I wouldn't alter it.

An original tip plate shows the character of the maker as much as anything else on the bow... and if replaced, the character of the piece is changed. In addition, some makers did some interesting things (like cutting channels into their tips to direct the hair; which I've never seen reproduced correctly, if at all, in the replacements). In addition, replacing an old ivory tip with something else really does nothing to decrease the use of ivory presently... and wastes material that has already been dedicated to the object in question... If the item was made before the treaty, it's possible for an individual to transport it legally (personal use)... so I don't see how this would be an improvement in anything but international commerce ($). No elephants will be saved by its removal. Elephants will only be saved if there is no longer a contemporary demand for the material.

June 23, 2007 at 03:59 AM · Conserving original work is obviously different from something that maintains a mindset that it's for some reason a desirable material. When I was a kid, junky upright pianos had ivory keys. I don't think it was an especially valuable material. Now - the value goes up, one can safely assume, and you have to ask why and see the whole picture. It's wonderful because it's rare. It's rare because... Its whole current value, its desirability, is based on something evil. That's why I said it and Brazillian rosewood are ugly stuff. Somebody might talk about the beauty of the grain of Brazillian rosewood, but there are plenty of woods with attractive grain. So you know what's really up.

June 23, 2007 at 04:07 AM · I wouldn't pull the keys from an antique piano either.

My family hasn’t tossed out my Grandfather's polar bear rug (shot during an expedition on dogsled), but I wouldn't dream of going out to shoot my own… and I gladly offered the right to display it to my brother’s household rather than put it on my floor. That was from a different time... and a different world. To me, having your head on frontward means recognizing the difference between what was and what is… not in changing things that were made, or obtained, in the past to make them fit our version of the present.

I think you make my own point in all this with the last lines in your post. If you don't want to take part in fostering what you feel are the evils of the past, you don't have to. On the same note, those of use that feel the past is worth preserving are not evil to do so.

June 23, 2007 at 04:21 AM · Our version of the present? How does it differ from the reality of the present? Do you think it's just a political problem?

"and projecting what we believe is evil on the past without understanding that past"

You're saying there's some question of whether or not the extinction of a species to provide decoration is evil.

It seems like you didn't read my paragraph that starts "Conserving original work is obviously different..." where I agreed with everything you said after as an agument. Either you didn't read it or that isn't your real position.

June 23, 2007 at 04:14 AM · The way I read it, Jim, you are projecting present values on items made in the past... Our version of the present (values based on the way we see our world as we see it now).

I'm sure future generations will have plenty to say about the resources we are currently consuming... and have their own value judgements to place along side those observations. I'm sure some observations, however damning, will be correct. Others may not be.

June 23, 2007 at 04:30 AM · "I'm sure future generations will have plenty to say about the resouces we are currently consuming.."

That would be nice. It's known as progress. And time is what keeps everything from happening at once :) Our current misuse of whatever doesn't mean we have no right to criticize actions of the past.

"I'm sure some observations, however damning, will be correct. Others may not be. "

Yes, they may decide we should have shot all the elephants. I don't know what else you could mean by that in this context :)

June 23, 2007 at 05:29 AM · “You're saying there's some question of whether or not the extinction of a species to provide decoration is evil.”

I wonder if I’m suffering some criticism because I’m not willing to view things as simply black & white? I also get the feeling you may judge me as not as socially responsible as you are?

I think that if you read what I’ve written that I don’t advocate the use of ivory or tortoise in new work, or, in most cases, restoration work. I also don't advocate smuggling the materials.

While I do have a background in sculpture and object conservation, my area of expertise is in instruments of the violin family. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable of all decorative arts.

If we go into what’s “evil”, I’m afraid we probably will hit a semantic wall… at least on the internet. Could be a good discussion to be held in front of a warm fire in the winter or on a deck in the summer, but the question of what was “evil” vs. what was irresponsible or short sighted… or good for that matter… is personally too much for me to try and debate here.

Our version of the present has produced a demand for pernambuco for bows that outstrips the regions ability to produce it… but the tons of this wood used for the textile trade (dyes) in previous centuries and the slash and burn farming in Brazil reduced the stands to their present levels… not bows. Baleen was used widely in corsets and other mass produced products… and ended up as grips on some bows and purfling in some instruments. Tortoiseshell was used to produce eyeglass frames, combs and other objects. Ivory, both elephant and walrus, was used in decorative arts… some cultural or religious, some decedent and status based. It was also used for some more practical uses (like bow tip plates). At one point, most if not all of these substances were viewed as "renewable resources". Maybe that's really an oxymoron.

In addition, certain types of shell and several varieties of ebony are endangered. There are too few old growth forests… and I think if one looks at the impact on the world that time, climatic change, and evolution, and humans have had on the world, I wouldn’t be surprised that well over 90% of all species that ever lived are extinct… or endangered.

Personally, I just don’t think something has to be “evil” to be unwise or worthy of changing.

Still, I fail to see how altering objects that already exist serves us… Better to change our ways, I think. If one wishes not to own a bow with an ivory tip, there are plenty of old and new ones without the stuff.

What I do have difficulty with is the continued slaughter of endangered species for profit… and the casualties (murder) of those who are trying to prevent such slaughter. If we’re going to get into “evil”, I’d be willing to start there.

June 23, 2007 at 05:14 AM · Acts that contribute to the extinction of species are regrettable, stupid, and evil, and always will be and always were. Evil because it's a regrettable situation resulting from greed, and regrettable to a degree and in a way that warrants the word "evil."

With the possible exception of that, we agree on all points. We're just too drunk to know it.

One word on not altering objects that already exist. If it's to conserve the work, no problem. You don't have to convince me by saying it has special grooves in it, etc. But if the object is to preserve the material, then I object. Why? Because it supports the value of the material. That's different from throwing out a bear skin rug. And you know most people would care a lot less about the work than the material.

June 23, 2007 at 05:23 AM · Just noticed your edit: "It seems like you didn't read my paragraph that starts "Conserving original work is obviously different..." where I agreed with everything you said after as an agument. Either you didn't read it or that isn't your real position."

Saw it... read it... probably didn't apply it in the way you intended. Was still reacting to the idea of changing over original ivory tips (preservation).

As said in the way distant past on Saturday Night Live; "Never mind". :-)

I think I'll have a last glass of wine before bed...

June 23, 2007 at 04:16 PM · Jeffrey, that last long post of yours was well conceived and superbly written. I'm impressed, what kind of wine were you sipping? Perhaps I should switch from martinis.

Rico

June 23, 2007 at 06:30 PM · Hey Rico;

Thanks!

It was a nice 2001 Pomerol last night... A gift from a friend. The wine surely helped, but Jim's wit gets me going and he's a great sounding board, so a good amount of the credit has to go to him.

You know you're always welcome to come on out and share a bottle or two, but don't drop the martini thing completely, OK? I'd miss them at VSA conventions!

June 23, 2007 at 11:00 PM · You can eat the frogs... like you know the cocaine ovules to avoid any problem.

You can be the dealer of frogs :)

June 25, 2007 at 04:17 AM · Jim,

I don't get it. I'm a believer in not making anything new out of ivory.

But if something has ivory on it that's 50 years old, I don't see the point of replacing it. The ivory was harvested long ago. Replacing that ivory isn't going to bring an elephant back to life nor will it enhance the lifespan of any elephant today.

One might as well say that all furniture made of old-growth wood should be burned.

Personally, I like the current approach. Certify anything old so there's a clear difference between "old" ivory and "new" ivory.

- Ray

June 25, 2007 at 04:26 AM · I didn't write that. It's that drunk guy kept saying I wrote that.

September 14, 2007 at 12:44 PM · Gennady or anyone else: Do you have first-hand knowledge of persons traveling with their personal ivory or Tourtise shell frog bows being stopped at the customs desk? Were there confiscations? Is there a clear procedure to follow to avoid such problems other than not carrying these items? Thanks much!

September 14, 2007 at 09:11 PM · I don't see mention of the bows Tarisio lost to US customs recently. They were coming back into the country after going to an exhibition, and they were stopped and confiscated because the paperwork was wrong. I believe Tarisio lost the appeal. As far as I know that's the end of the story, Tarisio got bad advice about how to proceed and did not realize that in their case, as a commercial entity, they had to follow a whole other set of rules (if indeed they would be allowed to send the bows at all, I don't recall the details).

Customs WILL take things away from you permanently, it's just a matter of what they are looking for and so on. Just because it hasn't happened in the past doesn't mean it won't in future, clearly CITES regulations are affecting what you can travel with more and more.

I would not dream of traveling with an ivory frogged bow without proper paperwork, which probably means something like a certificate from the controlling body (Dept. Fish and Game?) granting permission based on documentation you provided as to the ivory's age.

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