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The ring, pictured right, has remained in the family of its recipient since then. Now it is coming to auction for the first time – and the last, if a blanket ban on the sale of ivory is taken up by countries in the EU.

This piece of French history may soon be unsaleable in France and if it were taken to the US, it would no doubt be seized by customs officers who would smash the ivory elements and hand back just the gold to the owner.

This work of art on its own demonstrates the danger that a total ban would put on irreplaceable historical items. We are standing on the edge of a precipice, gazing into the abyss of an iconoclasm that will be just as disastrous as anything wrought by Savonarola.

We need to step back before there is a bonfire of the ivories. If we do not temper our desire to save the elephant from the vile trade in modern ivory with common sense, I fear that posterity will judge us just as harshly as we have judged iconoclasts in the past, yet not learned the lessons from the mistakes they made.

Graham Bowers

Newport, Isle of Wight