May 30, 2013 at 04:49 AM · Can you please recommend me some very good EUROPEAN boxwood pegs with Ivory? Price is not an issue for me as long as they have to be among the best quality. Has anyone tried the Bogaro and Clemente boxwood, Bois d'Harmonie, Otto Tempel, Harald Lorenz and others? I was also thinking of the Pernambuco pegs of Bois d"Harmonie. I don't want cheap pegs from China or India. I need it for a Fine Instrument. Thank you in advance for your recommendations.

Replies (49)

May 30, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Tell that to General Patton:

[when asked about his pistol grips]

Patton: They're ivory. Only a pimp from a cheap New Orleans whorehouse would carry a pearl-handled pistol.

May 30, 2013 at 11:28 AM · It's become pretty risky crossing borders with ivory. Even if it's from a legal source, the burden of proof that it's legal is probably on you.

Mammoth is legal and looks quite similar. However, that also means that it might be mistaken for elephant ivory.

So far, you've mentioned pegs from larger commercial production outfits. If you're interested in something a little more "one-off", unique and personal, you might want to contact Eric Meyer in Oregon. Eric doesn't use boxwood, but makes mountain mahogany pegs which can look quite similar, and the mountain mahogany is really a far superior material.

May 30, 2013 at 02:05 PM ·

May 30, 2013 at 02:49 PM · When performing with an orchestra, or even just as a piano/violin duet. Please be sure to check if the piano is using ivory keys.

If it is, slap the pianist, call him/her a fascist idiot and storm off the stage.

May 30, 2013 at 04:53 PM · So is it Ok for pianists to have ivory keys on their $$$$$$ piano, or not?

May 30, 2013 at 06:16 PM · So then, what about vintage ivory for violin parts?

One of my other hobbies is collecting, restoring and using vintage straight razors. There are plenty of antiques out there with ivory scales (the handle part the razor folds up into).

I'm sure vintage sources of ivory are therefore available to craft some peg collars if that's what floats someone's boat.

You could probably pick up a set of old straight razor scales and craft 4 peg collars and the tailpiece fret from it as well.

Or maybe do the same with some ivory taken from a vintage piano?

May 30, 2013 at 07:01 PM · Im unsure of other parts of the world but in USA there is the grandfather clause that would more than likely let you legally use real ivory if it was made or collected before the outlaw of harvesting ivory. Im not a lawyer so dont sue me! like others have said, traveling with it may be a big risk if you were to obtain and use it.

Why not use mammoth ivory? completely legal with no worries of traveling with it.

otherwise you have have to "salvage" a couple of ivory keys from an old piano to use for your fittings

May 30, 2013 at 07:36 PM · Vintage ivory is legal, but be prepared to be able to prove that it is vintage if you don't want trouble when traveling between countries.

Mammoth ivory is also legal, and information has been provided to border agents (at least in the US, and I've attended a couple of presentations from US enforcement agents) on how to distinguish between elephant and mammoth ivory, but who knows if border agents read and digest every memo?

Germany has recently developed a reputation for seizing things first, and sorting things out later. Personally, if I was a frequent international traveler, I'd shy away from anything which resembles ivory, particularly if I frequently needed to show up, instrument and bow in hand, for a performance on time.

May 30, 2013 at 09:08 PM · Meyer fitting has mammoth ivory available:

June 21, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Thank you for your recommendations. John Cadd, stop putting everyone in the same box. Your response is very uncivilized.. So, all people who are geographically close to China are Chinese? And being Chinese is synonymous to, "Barbarian"? It shows that you lack an essential kindergarten skill, which is "reading and comprehension". What is the issue if I live in Singapore, which is a 6 hour flight from Beijing!, by the way? What is the problem if I have a Russian sounding name? 2 percent of Americans have Russian sounding names. I'd study Russian if I were you. That would make you a bit more "intelligent" at least. FYI, Thailand is just an hour and a half flight away. They have lots of Pachyderms there as well. You don't find them only in Africa or in the zoos of the US of A. LOL :D Furthermore, not everything made in China is cheap or low quality. My Macbook Pro is made in China, it is anything but cheap or low quality, even if I got it from (USA). It's very heavy for a laptop computer. That's my onky complaint. When I mentioned Ivory, I obviously meant Ivory from extinct animals such as Mammoth Ivory widely used by Tempel and Bois d'Harmonie. There was nothing shocking with my question, if I was talking about pegs that are commercially available and the ivory they used is legal.

I'll try Eric Meyer's fittings. I already ordered from Tempel and Bois d'Harmonie. They all had Ivory. I don't like gold. I did not have any problems importing them from

Germany or France. I'm not looking for a status symbol. I don't need that. I bought fittings with Ivory because I simply like them. I need not justify what I like as long as it's legal and it's my money that I use for spending, not someone elses.

June 21, 2013 at 08:18 PM ·

June 22, 2013 at 12:59 AM · "I'm not looking for a status symbol. I don't need that. I bought fittings with Ivory because I simply like them."

We both know that's b.s.

And anyway, your insistence on ivory "because I like it" puts market pressure--eventually, in some way or another--on poachers to kill elephants and rhinos.

Maybe you didn't learn another important lesson in kindergarten: don't murder animals because you just happen to like their body parts. Ivory for piano keys? I understand that in a way because nothing feels like ivory. But for violin parts?


June 22, 2013 at 02:00 PM · Just for the sake of arguement (er, not that THAT ever happens here, right?)...

If you like the look of the 'white' accents...what's wrong with that?

It if HAS to be mammoth or elephant...that's one thing...but if it's just look of the white (and make it from whatever sustainable resource you like)'s just personal taste. an aside...why wouldn't 'they' have switched to french ivory at some point? I have some antiques made from french ivory that are in superb condition...or some other bone?

June 22, 2013 at 04:55 PM · I agree with the above posting concerning travel : with real ivory fittings you would not dare take it out of the country. The world is now full of zealous officials.

June 22, 2013 at 07:14 PM · I actually have a beautiful set of Bois d'Harmonie pegs on one of my violins, with tasteful carvings, and white trim for the collars and pins. They usually sell to through selected dealers, such as Johnson Strings in MA. USA, who in turn, sell to makers.

I just called up Johnson Strings and asked them if they know what the white trim is made of, and they said - mammoth ivory. But as David warned, the burden of proof is on us at customs. This is also true with bow frogs made with ivory or tortoise shell.

June 23, 2013 at 03:44 AM · I read somewhere that with the rapid receding of the glaciers they are finding huge fields of mammoth ivory. There should be no shortage of this beautiful material. For every 500 violinists that want a bit of ivory on a tail piece or pegs, there is someone wanting a ten-pound Buddha carved of the stuff.

As for me, I think I'll just stick with gold.

June 23, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Now, those of us in the trade are being advised to document our existing stockpiles of ebony, because certain species of this too have become controlled substances. And perhaps some of you are aware of the Federal raid on Gibson guitars, over ostensibly illegal rosewood.

An article about that:

June 23, 2013 at 01:05 PM · OMG - where will this end? Will the day soon come where we can only travel internationally with plastic or paper violins, bows and cases - made from recycled material?

June 23, 2013 at 06:16 PM · Fifty years ago people used to make a lot of furniture out of Philippine mahogany. It was inexpensive and easy to work and finish, and it's very pretty. Now I wonder if there is a single mahogany tree left in all of the Philippines.

While raiding a guitar maker for their stock of rosewood sounds ridiculous, we humans do have a penchant for consuming entire species down to the last living specimen before we think about managing the rate of harvest: Lake Superior whitefish, or Atlantic cod, or even the American bison. Quantities were once thought inexhaustible. Histories of the expansion westward describe driving upriver on the Missouri to Kansas City and seeing mile after mile of virgin walnut groves, with many trees four feet or more in diameter. Barns were sometimes built of walnut. Now walnut lumber exceeding a foot in width will be sold mainly as individual boards. So it goes now with oil, coal, and natural gas.

June 24, 2013 at 12:50 AM · On "endless fields" of mammoth ivory:

"There should be no shortage of this beautiful material."

Famous last words...

June 24, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Scott, right you are. I neglected "for now."

June 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Paul, I reckon we're all in favor of legal and sustainable use of wood and animal products. There are some troubling things though about the recent amendment of the Lacey Act, which changed it to include wood and timber products:

This change was largely instigated by politicians representing major lumber producing areas of the US. Does it help protect them from competition from imported wood, such as lumber from Canada? Yes. Was the main concern really about illegal harvesting of wood? Who knows, but it looks very suspicious when one follows the legislative path.

Is there some risk for instrument owners entering the US, who aren't carrying documentation that all the parts used to make their instruments were legally obtained? Probably. And it's not even clear what that documentation needs to be. To be thorough, I suppose it would need to include a copy of the original permit issued to a logger in Bosnia to harvest maple. Even armed with that, how does one know that the permit is genuine, and not a forgery, or that the permit actually applies to the specific piece of wood used? How does one connect the wood in a finished instrument with a specific permit?

However, in response to protests from instrument owners and makers, the legislators and those responsible for enforcement have given instrument owners a break. They have stated that individually owned instruments are not an enforcement priority. No, that doesn't mean that they are exempt, or legal. Just that they aren't an enforcement target right now.

So when you cross the border with your violin made in China, for instance, you have been given some kind of nebulous, temporary and unspecified relief from needing to be able to prove that the components of the violin were harvested in full compliance with the laws of that country, or that the components are somehow exempt because of some exclusions written into the laws. But you may still be a criminal. Comforting, eh?

June 24, 2013 at 01:56 PM · I wholeheartedly agree that for people that work with wood, you need clear and sensible rules to follow.

But I also support the Lacey Act amendments and wanted to respond to the comment that raiding the Gibson warehouses "seems like overkill".

The case against Gibson was pursued because Gibson allegedly knew and were aware the wood they were buying was stolen out of a national park in Madagascar. Illegal logging in places like Madagascar is a big deal. It destroys habitat, fuels climate change, erosion, landslides and pollution. Illegal logging hurts communities that depend on non-timber forest products for survival. It is not one or two trees, it can be massive clear cuts that can be seen from the air. Countries like Madagascar need to be able to sustainably manage their forests and they can't if companies like Gibson support illegal logging through their purchases.

Regarding ivory: Demand for ivory has increased worldwide, poaching is at an all time high and elephant populations are crashing. This article:

found that elephant populations have declined by 62% between 2002 and 2011. That's 62% over ten years. If that rate continues, elephants will be extinct in the wild in our lifetime. The more humans who let go of their attachment to ivory, the longer elephants will exist.

June 24, 2013 at 10:10 PM · "I need not justify what I like as long as it's legal and it's my money that I use for spending, not someone elses."

Actually, in this case you do need to justify it. Simple legality is not a justification for what some could call an immoral act. Using that argument would put one on thin philosophical ice for a large number of actions. Especially as what's legal varies between societies.

For example, it may very well be legal to import and sell tiger paws or to torture bears for their gall bladders in China--that doesn't make it right.

However, I suspect that the original poster, having gotten blasted on this forum for her taste in violin decor, is long gone. Probably admiring her elephant bling in a big mirror.

June 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM · ....never mind.

June 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM · I didn't think that Patricia's inquiry was inappropriate or unusual. I merely wanted to warn people about the confusing legal environment we're in. Some of these laws are less about protecting endangered species, and more about keeping profits from labor and manufacturing inside the country of origin, and exporting a "value added" product. For instance, it's perfectly legal to buy finished bows from Brazil, but illegal to buy "bow blanks" or raw Pernambuco. That's been pretty tough on bow makers who don't happen to live in Brazil.

The same can be true for rosewood. It can be legal to buy "finished" guitar fingerboards, but illegal to buy the raw wood for making a guitar fingerboard. That's how Gibson initially got in trouble. Their import documents specified "guitar fingerboards", and law enforcement didn't think that enough wood removal had already been done on the blanks to meet the definition.

REAL making isn't about merely assembling pre-manufactured parts, so you can see how some problems arise for makers.

Once an acceptable substitute comes along for ebony fingerboards, I'll probably stop using ebony altogether. If all of us individual makers stop using ebony, will it make a noticeable difference in world ebony consumption? I doubt it. Chinese factories are churning out ebony-fitted violins by the hundreds of thousands.

June 25, 2013 at 01:49 PM · That reminds me of a conversation I had when I was still young and idealistic about energy consumption.

We lived on an acerage and were 'forced' to conserve water (or risk running out) so I was on a big water conservaton kick - which also happened to be in keeping with the current 'flavour of the month'.

Experts were all advising us to reduce the amount of toilet flushing, buy low volume toilets, wash clothes less often, take very short showers (turn water off while lathering even), etc.

Then I spoke with someone who essentially said that 'until someone makes me, I'm takin' my 20 minute long hot showers!"

At that point I decided I wasn't interested in jumping through hoops and saving water while he was taking self-indulgent and extravagent long, hot showers.

And, in the intervening years, I don't think that all the time I spent engaged in extreme water conservation made any difference to the world's water resources whatsoever.

I am still environmentally conscious...but am very middle of road about it. I figure if we all were, we'd probably be okay. But no matter what I do...I can't compensate for hoards of greedy people...(be those individuals or corportions or governments) who will do as they please regardless.

June 25, 2013 at 02:07 PM · I think there are lot of other dark woods that would be very pretty as violin fingerboards. Also I realize it's not the best thing but there is always staining.

N.A., the way to keep your acquaintance from taking long, hot showers is to introduce graduated surcharges on water and electricity consumption. Regulations are not the only way to modify behavior -- there is also the tax code. With the tax code your water-loving neighbor still has a choice, and enforcement is fairly simple. So, one "solution" for ebony would be to introduce large tariffs.

June 25, 2013 at 03:40 PM · In my opinion there should not be anything wrong with ebony, since it is “renewable” material. Or do you think that the violin production is so huge, that ebony tries could be not able to renew?

As for ivory, there has to be certain volume of it from naturally died animals for sure. Ivory is very durable material, I think even of you find 10 year old skeleton of the elephant, the ivory has to be still in perfect condition.

To be honest, I don’t understand the environmental restrictions completely. EU officials commanded that any fuel and gasoline has to contain at least 5% of plant oils and its proportion has to be increased yearly. Besides problems with destroyed engine injection pumps, Europe started to face the risk of famine. Almost all farmers turned to growing oil plants for gasoline, due to massive “environmental“ subventions. There is almost nobody to grow wheat.

So in a few years time we will be able to drive our cars, but not eat any food. It is really an interesting prospect… EU officials already noticed what they caused and now they are musing how to back out.

Another mystery is the support of electric cars provided by EU in the time, when there starts to be a significant lack of electricity in Europe. There is not enough electricity because of closing German nuclear power plants after Fukishima disaster, closing coal plants due to pollution limits and so. We are building wind mills, which kill birds and photovoltaic panels, which are not durable and difficult to recycle. Both of them cause huge power fluctuation and therefore cause problem with electricity nets. We could burn more natual gas of course, so at the end we would run out of gas not in 40 years time but in 10 years instead…

The future seems to be not very optimistic. Governments and officials are helpless in fact. So, in order to do something, they pretend saving the earth by bossing musicians with exotic wood parts and ivory tips on their bows at the borders. It is sad and frustrating. I decided to sell the old bow with ivory frog that Inherited from my father rather than being confiscated if I would forgotten it in my case while traveling….

June 25, 2013 at 04:47 PM · "As for ivory, there has to be certain volume of it from naturally died animals for sure. Ivory is very durable material, I think even of you find 10 year old skeleton of the elephant, the ivory has to be still in perfect condition.

That's besides the point. The point is to eliminate the desire to have it in the first place.

June 25, 2013 at 04:50 PM · "I don't think that all the time I spent engaged in extreme water conservation made any difference to the world's water resources whatsoever."

One doesn't conserve the world's water resources--one conserves local water resources. So in that case your conservation may have had a small effect. I grew up with well water that occasionally had problems in times of drought. Lowering the consumption by a small amount probably did have an effect on what was a limited rate of production.

June 25, 2013 at 06:48 PM · Bohdan, ebony is technically renewable (as is ivory) but both ebony trees and elephants take a long, long time to mature. Trees are cut down and elephants killed far faster than they can be replaced. Trying to convince landowners that they should let the trees grow is difficult, as the human urge- and often need- is to make money NOW.

A few years back, Smithsonian magazine (I think) had a fascinating article about pernambuco. For a hardwood, pernambuco grows fast, "fast" being usable in about 30 years. Some geniuses came up with the idea of planting shade-grown coffee under the maturing trees, giving land owners a source of income while waiting for the trees to grow to a saleable size.

Bow makers have a huge stake in ensuring a continuing supply of pernambuco. I'm not sure ebony and rosewood have a similar small, committed group.

June 25, 2013 at 07:55 PM · Scott: I may have exaggerated...just a little...;)

June 25, 2013 at 08:08 PM · The main challenge with Pernambuco (bow wood) supply hasn't been overuse. It's been clearcutting and burning to make space for other crops.

Ironically(?) Brasil is the largest producer of sugar cane-sourced ethanol motor fuel. Sugar cane isn't a very good income-producing crop, if you try to plant it between trees, under a forest canopy. ;-)

Warchal was right about some "feel-good" choices, versus putting in a little extra work to figure out what's really going on.

June 25, 2013 at 08:11 PM · 30 years is nothing outstanding. If we consider how long have to grow oaks, beeches being able to harvested and turned into a furniture we use daily and throw away almost every second year (being burn or just put into the landfills…). If we consider how long it takes until a maple or spruce is mature enough to be cut and turned into a violin… I think it canot be less than 30 years, but rather more than 30.

And now, if we consider that every person in civilized world is buying furniture (building houses) and using a lot of paper literally daily, (compared to the numbers of musicians using pernambuco and ebony), I am starting to worry much more about oaks, beeches, fir trees and pine trees.

In my opinion, pernambuco is still renewable, although it takes time. But oil, and metals such a silver e.g. is not renewable and can be never grown. In spite of it literally every violinist throws one or even several grams of silver with every worn string set into a garbage every few weeks time again and again. It becomes lost forever…

June 25, 2013 at 10:18 PM · There is a pernambuco initiative started by bow makers to help conserve it, grow new trees (or are they bushes?) in a hot-house environment, etc.

June 26, 2013 at 01:43 AM · I am pretty ignorant about this topic, but given the size of a violin bow, couldn't you make about 1 million bows out of one pernambuco tree? Of course that's an exaggeration, but surely it would be a lot wouldn't it?

June 26, 2013 at 03:38 AM · The International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative USA

is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the conservation

and sustainable use of Caesalpinia echinata, Brazil's national

tree, commonly known as pau brasil or pernambuco.

Pernambuco has been used in the making of bows for over

250 years, enhancing the performance of stringed music for generations. The wood's native habitat in Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest has been reduced to fragments of its original extent. Today, pernambuco is increasingly rare and endangered in many areas of its native habitat.

IPCI is working to ensure the future of stringed instrument music by increasing scientific knowledge of pernambuco and restoring the species as a fundamental part of the Brazilian landscape. We support research, replanting programs, educational outreach and other conservation measures.

June 26, 2013 at 09:04 AM · There is no doubt that your activities are benefitial. How was the reason of the massive rainforest reduction? Has it been rduced by violin bows production?

June 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM · I forgot to mention that aside from clearing the forest to grow crops, the other big reason for clearing is cattle ranching. Alcohol derived from sugar cane, and beef are a large part of the Brazilian economy. Pernambuco will probably never be.

One of the challenges of the Pernambuco Conservation Initiative is to change the perception of pernambuco in Brazil, encouraging it to be seen as a valuable resource worth sustaining. But with these powerful competing economic interests, it's uncertain whether a group founded by foreign bowmakers will be able to have a significant impact.

June 26, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Impact? Between bow makers and players we've got a whole army of people armed with pointed sticks! (A dollop of humor here won't kill us!)

June 27, 2013 at 12:54 AM · Smiley, I think pau-brasil trees, from which we get pernambuco, really are pretty small. You're right though, a tree supplies wood for a lot more bows than credenzas or whatever.

June 27, 2013 at 01:22 AM · I heard (or read) somewhere that pernambuco wood is not used for anything other than bows for stringed instruments? If so, then bow makers need not compete with furniture makers for the wood. That being the case, then one would think a few dozen acres of pernambuco trees would be more than enough to supply the world with wood for violin bows. Again, I plead total ignorance.

June 27, 2013 at 02:14 AM · "Between bow makers and players we've got a whole army of people armed with pointed sticks!"

They already have plenty of people with pointed sticks--the natives that are being pushed off their land. Neither the ranchers nor the Brazilian government seem to care about them.

Perhaps if we tell them that pernambuco is essential for the manufacture of soccer balls...

June 27, 2013 at 02:19 AM ·

June 27, 2013 at 09:16 AM · "Same with killing Elephants but there is an absence here of any real moral tone about them although it sounded promising at the start. So basically we don`t seem to really care that much about Elephants .It`s down to whether we get caught or have something confiscated "


John, if you read the thread again, you'll find that no one here has advocated killing elephants for ivory, or using illegally obtained ivory, and that the distinction between the various kinds of ivory was made early on in the thread.

So the use of one of the legal, non-elephant-killing forms of ivory on one's instrument or bow becomes largely a practical matter (not a moral one), involving the possibility of mis-identification or mis-dating, and consequent seizure and destruction.

June 28, 2013 at 01:17 PM · ***environmental note: since most chewing gum is made with either a synthetic rubber or combo of synthetic & natural, there are environmental concerns with its manufacture, too! ;^)

June 29, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Rubber trees are more profitable than pernambuco ...chemical rubber IS a chemical, and its manufacture is no 'cleaner' than for any other, just to name two potential areas of concern. I 'heard' the tone of your comment based on previous posts of you've made.

July 1, 2013 at 12:09 AM · "since most chewing gum is made with either a synthetic rubber or combo of synthetic & natural, there are environmental concerns with its manufacture, too!"

Please, this forum is for string players only. Issues regarding chewing gum should be posted on the band website.

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