I collect, among other things, 18th century ivory, as well as tortoiseshell snuff boxes.
My favourite wood is rosewood, and I am hearing similar rumblings about that now. I am beginning to feel, to quote the late Dorothy Parker, that everything I like is illegal, immoral or fattening.
I regard myself as a staunch advocate of animal rights, as do my friends, antiques dealers included. I have detected more than a hint of holier-than-thou condescension in attitudes expressed in some recent contributions to the ATG.
Take a panellist at your round table on ivory (ATG No 2252), who said that every piece of ivory represented a dead elephant to her.
While this is unquestionably true, I would like to point out that every pair of leather shoes she owns represents a dead cow: they are just not endangered.
It makes more sense to look at things in their proper context. When these objects were created, elephants were not regarded as ‘endangered’ as there was no such concept.
Do I like the fact that these majestic creatures were slaughtered for their tusks?
Of course not, and I am happy that, working together, we can publicise the atrocities of the current trade in all illicit goods.
But we must accept that these things are part of our cultural heritage.
I willingly use myself as an example: I am not going to stop purchasing antique ivory. If I have to pay more, or buy it from private sources only, I will do so. I live in California and I do not appreciate being told what antique items I am allowed to own.
We must take a mature and thoughtful approach, not with the aim of protecting business interests, but to balance modern-day ethics, and aesthetics with an appreciation of the past.
Isn’t this the ultimate goal of the antiques trade as it seeks to remain integral to modern-day society?