What you need to know if you use ivory for knives, or buy, sell knives with ivory

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by Mark Knapp, Feb 4, 2015.

  1. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    This is a thread about the use of ivory and whale ivory, baleen and bone, what is legal and what is not. It is not a thread about weather or not we should use ivory, if you want to talk about that, start a thread somewhere else.

    We will be adding to this thread whenever new information comes out about using ivory for knife making.

    We will be talking about what is legal and what is not.

    We will be posting information about the ivory trade so that you can talk knowledgeably about it.

    We will try to keep abreast of the changing ivory laws, and keep you informed on what you need to do to preserve the right to use it, and sell what you make with it, as well as items made with it.

    We will also be talking about how to use ivory to get the best results that you can. We will have questions and answers about the use of ivory.

    I will also be having contests from time to time and giving away free ivory. Stay tuned to learn how you could win some.

    I am not a lawyer, we can help you stay out of trouble, but if you get yourself into trouble by the improper use of ivory, I cannot help you.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
  2. olpappy


    Dec 6, 2004
    Great idea, even laws which were unchanged for years are now in a state of flux. Bills to ban ivory have been introduced in California, Hawaii, Alaska and other states, I have a hard time keeping track.
  3. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the use of ivory and whale parts for knife making.

    Do not buy white walrus ivory, whale parts or elephant ivory if you do not know where it came from. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. For walrus ivory the animal had to have died before 1972. For Asian elephant ivory it had to be imported before 1977, for African elephant ivory it had to be imported before 1989. If you don't know these things, do not buy the ivory. When we say "know" where it came from, we mean the person you are buying it from has to have some family history that dates the object. It has to be compelling provenance. You can't make this stuff up. Don't by it if there is anything "iffy" about it. Today, provenance and family history are acceptable proof of an objects origin, if the new federal ban is enforced as it is written, that will no longer be true. Remember, a percentage of the white ivory being sold is for sale by undercover fish and game officers.

    You cannot import or export new elephant ivory into or from the U.S. no matter when the elephant died. With very few exceptions. This includes raw ivory or items made with ivory.

    You cannot ship any walrus parts, including "fossil" walrus ivory, artifacts or finished knives to or from the U.S. without a CITES permit. The permit costs about $300.00 and takes about 3 months to get.

    You can use your personal white walrus ivory from a piece of native artwork for a knife handle for yourself. You can not make knives from native artwork and sell them.

    Right now, you can make knives with any legal, pre-act elephant ivory and sell them accept in New york and New Jersey, this will change if the new federal ban on trade is enforced as written.

    You can not sell a knife with elephant ivory or mammoth ivory on it in the states of New York and New Jersey. I will try to research these laws and fill in the details.

    You cannot sell whale bone, baleen or ivory handled knives across state lines, "interstate commerce" on whale parts is not legal. You can sell these items within your own state, "intrastate commerce" if they are legal in all other respects.

    You cannot buy any whale or walrus parts, unless you are a native person and they predate the 1972 Marine Mammal Act. You can buy whale and walrus parts if you know, and can prove, they predate the 1972 Marine Mammal Act. You can buy and resell knives made with post-act walrus and whale parts if they were originally made by a native person.

    The agencies tasked with the job of enforcing these wildlife laws are serious so don't screw around with these laws, it is not worth it.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
    TonySal and Jon Turner like this.
  4. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    Yep, right now there are ivory bans pending in CA CT HI IA WA. I live in Alaska and haven't heard of anything happening here, what have you heard?
  5. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    This is a message from Rob Mitchell of Elephant Protection Association, they are a group dedicated to the preservation of elephants and the right to use legal ivory within the U.S.

    Animal activists are moving fast and furious to push ivory bans through as many of the 50 states as they can. The good news is that we're doing everything in our power - and then some - to fight back.
    In order to respond quickly to these threats, we need people in each state who are willing to testify before legislative committees why ivory bans won't help elephants but will crush constituents. If you want to help, we will help you prepare for testimony. Because some of these states are moving quickly, we need to know who is out there in advance so we can meet these challenges as they arise.
    If you are willing to testify, please e-mail me the following:
    Your name
    Your Address
    Your Phone Number
    Your link to ivory (type of collector, business, rough estimate of the damage a ban would do to you)
    If you are willing to help, we will be in touch with you as bills and hearings come up.
    Thank you! We can stop this nonsense only if we work together!

    Rob Mitchell"

    Here's his email address Rob Mitchell rmitchell(at)elephantprotection(dot)org
  6. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    If you want to be able to talk intelligently about the problem of elephant poaching in Africa, and where the ivory is going, you should read "Out of Africa, Mapping the Global Trade in Illicit Elephant Ivory"

    Here’s the link. http://media.wix.com/ugd/e16b55_9d27f7c90250420c87c3b7d2703c3114.pdf

    Here’s another way to get it. http://www.c4ads.org/#!project-highlights/c21l1

    The authors were C4ADS they are " a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide." If you want to more about them you can read about it in the report. I hope we can all agree they are competent and unbiased

    The study was sponsored by Born Free.

    "Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, the organization leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade.” I think they can be considered not pro ivory use.

    The report says, on page 10, " in the period between January 2009 and June 31, 2014, including all greater than 500kg. This data set clearly highlights the primary axis of ivory trafficking; out of Africa, especially East Africa, and towards East Asia, with very little evidence of flows traveling anywhere else in the world"

    On page 37 it says " Western markets appear to have shrunk considerably; between 2005 - 2011, per ETIS data , there were only five seizures greater than 100kg in Europe, while through the mid - 2000s, the U.S. market appeared to trade largely in
    antique and worked ivory and not African raw ivory. Up until 2001, the largest seizure on the US West Coast was only around 115kg, while the largest seizure in US history as of 2014 remains the 2011 seizure of one ton of ivory illegally imported by a Philadelphia antiques dealer."

    And " Wholesale prices have increased very significantly in China, reaching $2,100/kg in2014, almost five times a previous estimate in 2010." That's about $945.00 a pound. So again, smugglers have little incentive to bring ivory to the U.S. where it only sells for about $100.00 a pound.

    For recommendations to help stop poaching they suggest putting more emphasis on the large shipping hubs where the large shipments get funneled through.(on page 57)

    and on page 58 it says "Focusing enforcement efforts on the supply chain sidesteps targeting impoverished African poachers, as well as uninformed and ultimately unimportant retail consumers, to focus instead on the organized criminal networks that transport the majority of today’s illegal ivory."

    I found the US was mentioned almost nowhere else in the report.

    I think this is a very good report in terms of objective, unbiased research.
  7. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    I got a lot of information from this study.

    It was done by ETIS, Elephant Trade Information System. It was set up by CITES to track the deaths of poached elephants and the movement of illicit ivory from Africa. Every country that is involved in CITES is supposed to report all seizures of illicit elephant ivory to ETIS. These reports are where tate and federal governments are supposed to get information so that they can make informed decisions concerning the trafficking of illicit ivory. Unfortunately these studies are often ignored IMO.


    In Fig.13 is a map and legend that show where the ivory from poached elephants has been going since 2008. The U.S. is not even counted as a destination of any significant amount.

    In figure 12 it shows the US was a very small consumer of poached elephant ivory. One of the smallest of all the ivory consuming nations at under 2000 kg in the 9 year period from the year 2000-2008.
  8. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    Below is part of a summery of an ETIS study concluded in 2007. I have a link to the whole study but since that time the internet address has changed, when I find the whole study again, I will post a link.

    Executive summery

    •The survey found 24,004 ivory items in the 657 outlets in the 16 towns and cities visited in the USA, most of which probably were legally for sale.

    also from page five,

    •The USA has a minimum of 120 full - and part-time ivory craftsmen. This is down from an estimate of 1,400 crafts men in 1989.

    •The country consumes an estimated less than one tonne of raw ivory annually, down from seven tonnes a year in the late 1980s. Craftsmen each use an average of 8kg of ivory a year and say that the USA has an adequate supply.

    •Craftsmen use mostly old, legal, raw ivory to manufacture new knife, gun and walking stick handles, scrimshaw pieces, cue stick parts and jewellery. They often use broken or damaged ivory items for restoration work.

    •The USA has a good record of enforcing CITES regulations in respect of international wildlife trade and has reported the largest number of seizures of illegal ivory in the world, according to the Elephant Trade Information System.

    •This study determined that the US ivory market has a small detrimental effect on elephant populations ,more from importing illegal worked ivory for retail sale than from local ivory manufacturing. Some contraband gets past Customs and there are no effective internal ivory transport and retail market controls.

    This is all from a report written in 2007 on only 16 cities and towns. It stands to reason if they had visited more cities and towns there numbers of businesses and craftsmen would have been in the thousands. In the US, my research is showing me that since this report we have done even better. In the years from 2009 to 2013 the illegal import of elephant products to the US was a quantity below statistical significance.
  9. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    If you were wondering what you could do to help stop the federal ban on trade of legal elephant ivory in the U.S. this is it.

    This was sent to me by Doug Ritter of kniferights.

    Alaskan Congressman Don Young has introduced bipartisan legislation with Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) to roll-back and further halt onerous constraints on lawfully possessed ivory products, including musical instruments, firearms, knives, and museum pieces that include ivory parts. The African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015, HR 697, would effectively end the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's draconian and unilateral moratorium on the sale and trade of lawfully possessed ivory, while also making significant efforts to assist anti-poaching efforts in countries with elephant populations.
    "This bill is a balanced and comprehensive approach to targeting the trade of illegal ivory without penalizing the millions of Americans who legally acquire or already own products containing ivory," said Congressman Don Young. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's ban on moving ivory across international and state borders wrongfully penalizes countless Americans and institutions who have legally obtained musical instruments, firearms, jewelry, and pianos containing elephant ivory, but does little to nothing to prevent the poaching of these animals. The impact of this ban, which affects Americans from all walks of life and destroys the value of countless family heirlooms, has already been significant. My legislation works to alleviate the pressure placed on these legal ivory owners while increasing the enforcement presence, training and anti-poaching efforts in countries where elephant populations exist."

    "This legislation will help crack down on illegal poaching through proper use of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's authority across borders, while maintaining protections for legally harvested ivory," said Congressman Collin Peterson. "This is a multi-pronged approach, rather than an all-out ban, which is necessary to conserving African Elephants and ensuring that countless legally obtained antiquities can be preserved."

    The introduction of this bill comes in direct response to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's February 25, 2014 unilateral decision to implement a ban on the importation, exportation, or interstate sale of lawfully possessed ivory. The Director's Order has destroyed the value of classical instruments, certain firearms, knives, chess and pool sets, and other items without providing any conservation value to African elephants. Congressman Young introduced similar legislation in the 113th Congress.

    The bill would specifically allow:

    ● Lawfully possessed, raw or worked ivory to be imported or exported for museum displays and personal use;

    ● The Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to place a U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer in each African country with significant elephant populations;

    ● The Secretary of the Interior to certify any country found to be a significant transit or destination point under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act;

    ● The continued importation of Sport-hunted elephant trophies from populations listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species;

    ● For the reauthorization of appropriations of not more than $5 million for each of the years 2016-2020, and for these funds to be prioritized for projects designed to facilitate the acquisition of equipment and training of wildlife officials in ivory producing countries for anti-poaching efforts.


    Getting this bill introduced is only the first step. We need your help to gain additional co-sponsors. If your Representative is not already a co-sponsor, please call or email your Representative and urge them to co-sponsor this commonsense legislation that both preserves Americans' property rights and protects elephants in Africa You can find your Representative at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

    Or, you can use the Open Congress website at: https://www.opencongress.org/bill/hr697-114/

    Here's a model email that you can use. We suggest you keep it simple and to the point:

    I support H.R.697, the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015. I urge you to become a co-sponsor of this commonsense legislation that will protect my property rights and also help protect elephants in Africa. Punishing American ivory owners by taking the value of their investments in legal ivory will not do anything to stop the slaughter of African elephants, which only feeds the illegal ivory trade in Asia.

    Sincerely, (your name)
  10. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    Read below to learn how you can win these mammoth ivory scales worth $300.00


    I would like find out what our legislators are thinking about the state and federal bans on the trade of legal ivory within the U.S. so here's what I would like to do. Every Friday, starting with Friday Feb. 13, I am going to have a drawing for some free ivory. It will be either ancient walrus ivory or mammoth ivory. Every Friday I'm going to post a picture of the of the ivory I'm giving away the following Monday.

    There are two ways to enter;

    I would like you to send me either in email or private message the results you got when you contacted your elected officials to tell them what you think about the pending bans on the trade of legal ivory. It sometimes takes a little while to get an answer back so I am going to be doing this for a long time. I will keep giving away ivory till I either run out, till we can't use ivory any more or until these bills all get resolved one way or another.

    If you haven't heard back from your legislators you can still be in the drawing by answering the weekly question about ivory or ivory laws. I will ask a new question every week. You can be in each drawing twice if you answer the question and send me the results of your interaction with your representatives.

    Here are the rules;

    You can enter for the drawing every week, if you entered by sending me the results you got from your representatives, your name will carry over to the next week and every week after that until you win. You can also enter by answering the weekly question.

    Even if you don't think we should be able to use legal ivory, you can still enter. If you'd rather not have the ivory I will send you a brand name folder picked at random from my stash, pictured below. Just tell me you'd rather have a knife.

    If your state has a pending bill concerning the sale of ivory within your state, you can enter by sending me the results of your interaction with them too.

    All answers must be sent to me via email or private message, I don't want to clutter up this thread with all of the answers. My email address is cuttingegde(at)gci(dot)net

    All the names of people who entered will go into a hat and one name each week will be picked at random.

    You can enter every week by answering the question of the week. All those names go away after the drawing. You can enter again the following week.

    Your name will carry over to following weeks if you entered by sending me the results you got from your representatives until you win.

    Once you are a winner, you are not eligible to win again, only one win per person.

    I will compile all of the results and let you know what I learned from all of you.

    ****So far, I have four names in the drawing, people that have let me know the results of contacting their legislators.***

    For a sample of an email to your legislators and instructions on how to write them see this post above "African Elephant Conservation & Legal Ivory Possession Act Re-Introduced in Congress"

    I will be picking from this stash for those that would rather have a knife than the ivory.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  11. Deweyknives


    Nov 29, 2006
    Mark, you clearly spend a lot of time keeping up with these bills & regulations. THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge and findings with us. We should be sending you 'thank you freebies'!

    It does'nt sound too good for us in NewYork. It's a shame the whole state is regulated by rediculous laws originating from NYS. I don't know if I can accomplish anything but I'll do some reading & research on the laws of New York State.

    Thank you again for filtering out some of the BS and informing us of 'relevent' information.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015
  12. bacustomknives


    Sep 3, 2008
    David Warther , Here in ohio is going out of his way to fight the ban aswell usually weekly sends out emails,on the latest news of whats going on here in the United States..If you are using ivory or purchasing it would be great for everyone to join together to try an stop whats going on before its to late!!
    You can contact David here an get the news letter..Thanks Mark

  13. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
  14. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
  15. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
  16. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 1, 2013
    I have crafted my letter to my Congressman. I've put mine under "Other Issue" in the drop down choice of relevant topics. Do you think there is a better one for this issue?

    Here's what I asked my Congressman to do.

    Hello Congressman Ted Lieu,
    I am a Custom Knife Maker that specializes in Culinary Knives that lives in your district. I heard that the President wants to ban ALL commerce in Elephant ivory and our State may have pending Bills?

    Banning the sale or transportation across state lines of preexisting musical instruments that contain ivory like the family Piano or a classical music instrument like an Obo is really a bad idea. While I agree that the poaching of the Elephant in Africa needs to be stopped now. Harming those with ivory products made and purchased before the ban on importation of ivory will not accomplish that.

    Also as an Artisan in my work I sometimes use FOSSILIZED Elephant & Walrus ivory and there in no mistaking this for modern elephant ivory due to the colors and look of Ancient ivory.

    I ask your help in making sure that Fossilized/Ancient ivories are not included in any new ban in our state or Fed, laws.

    Many Artisans will suffer their livelihoods here in the lower 48 states including California and the Inuit and other native peoples that harvest the Ancient ivories from the permafrost in Alaska will lose a big source of income.

    Please help us exclude Musical instruments that contain modern ivory and Ancient/Fossilized ivories from any bans of sales and transportation by our state or Fed Government.

    I thank you and await your kind reply.

    Laurence Segal
  17. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    Laurence, you are a good dude. I will put you in the drawing, please remember to let me know what they say, if you hear back. Thanks Mark
  18. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 1, 2013

    Here is what I got immediately, I will post his personal reply when I receive it.

    Thanks Mark.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact my office. All correspondence from my constituents is extremely important to me, and I make every attempt to respond individually to each message I receive. However, please be aware that due to the large volume of requests I receive, you may experience a delay in receiving a detailed response.

    If this is a time-sensitive legislative issue, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-3976. If you are contacting me regarding casework, please call my Los Angeles office at (323) 651-1040.

    Again, thank you for your email, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance to your or your family.


    Ted W. Lieu
  19. Mark Knapp

    Mark Knapp Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 20, 2009
    There has been some discussion about how difficult it is to distinguish between elephant and mammoth ivory. The description on the USF&W identification page seem overly complicated to me. Here it is


    It was written by a scientist and sometimes they take things pretty seriously. I don't think its that complicated so I did it myself and took some pictures.

    This is how the mammoth ivory typically looks when we buy it. I think we can all agree, it looks nothing like elephant ivory. I think you would have go to great lengths to make elephant ivory look like mammoth ivory. I have never seen raw mammoth ivory that could have been mistaken for elephant ivory.

    This is a batch of mammoth ivory scales. Mammoth ivory (bark) scales never look like elephant ivory scales unless you sand down through the exterior bark. There is no sense in doing that because there is a higher demand for the colorful scales and higher prices are generally paid for the colorful mammoth ivory scales. Down in the lower left corner is a piece of Asian elephant ivory for comparison. Next to it is a piece of interior mammoth ivory, what is sometimes called "core". That set of scales is as big as we can ever hope to get from any mammoth tusks from Alaska, occasionally we can get some big enough to make a single hidden tang knife handle from but it's pretty rare.

    I think that most of us would agree that the scales, except the interior ones, could not be confused with elephant ivory. I suppose someone could try to fake the colors and make white ivory look like ancient ivory. It's pretty easy to tell when they do that because the color on real ancient ivory goes into the ivory. If it was faked, the color would only be on the surface. It's kind of like fake damascus, the texture is only on the surface, if you check the spine of a fake damascus blade it will be shiny instead of showing layers. All of this ivory is naturally colored, no stain was used anywhere.

    Here's a closer look at the lower left corner.

    I sanded the ends on some of the scales to 400 grit so that my camera would be able to show you the Schreger lines. I sanded about ten sets, I polished just a few of them. Out of thirty seven sets of scales, I could see the Schreger lines, what we call cross-hatching, on 31 of the sets. That was with just sanding with a 36 grit disk sander on the ends of most of them. If I had finish sanded all of them, I am sure I could have seen the lines in almost all of them, with just my naked eyes.

    These pictures were all taken with my regular point-and-shoot camera, that I bought for less than $100.00. The camera was set on Macro mode.

    This is one that I polished as well as sanded.


    This is the set of interior mammoth ivory scales, you can see the lines pretty clearly, I used no stain or magnification on any of these.

    This is the end of the piece of Asian elephant ivory. Right now it's legal to sell this. I have an affidavit from the guy I traded for it from to account for it's origin. If the federal ban on trade passes, we would not be able to sell it. You can see the lines pretty easily, again nothing fancy, no stain, no photocopy machine.

    Here, I used a pointy marker to mark the mammoth ivory along the Schreger lines.

    and the Asian elephant.

    Then I measured it, the angles in this piece, the Asian elephant measure 103.6 degrees.

    This is the interior piece of mammoth ivory. It measures 90 degrees.

    This is one of the exterior scales (we call bark). It measures 79.3 degrees. Mammoth ivory bark scales are always cut from the outside of the tusk so they always work for measuring the angles. If you have interior scales or material cut from the middle of the core the angles will be even sharper so they can't be mistaken for elephant.

    Anything that measures over 100 degrees should be elephant, anything that measures under 100 degrees should be ancient ivory.

    I can do this with virtually every piece of ivory in my shop without any fancy equipment.

    I think that only very rarely mammoth ivory could be mistaken for elephant ivory to the casual viewer but remember, our fish and wildlife personnel are not supposed to be casual viewers, they are supposed to be trained. In a very small percentage of the cases would you need a science lab to know the difference. And since most pieces of ivory art work are already polished, you should be able to see the Schreger lines without having to harm the piece in any way.

    Hope this clears thing up for some of you.
  20. Sandra Brady

    Sandra Brady

    Mar 16, 2014
    There is already an elephant ivory ban in effect in Ca., but they are looking at adding Mammoth ivory and all other ivories to the existing law. What it currently says is any part of any animal that is in the endangered species listing, is illegal to sell in the state.

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