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Yellowing of Elephant Ivory...

Discussions and analysis of Elephant Ivory
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NetsukeManiac
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Postby NetsukeManiac » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:24 am


I'm sure this subject has come up before, but here is the question. I have read that ivory will 'yellow' as a consequence of being in contact with a silk kimono. Does anyone know if this is a result of some sort of chemical reaction with silk or is it simply because the ivory is being stained by the kimono's dye? As you can see in the following photos, my surumawashi is really yellowed on the backside:
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OldKappa
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Postby OldKappa » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:42 am

Clive is the right person for the expert reply.

I have seen quite a few himotoshi that have been stained by the cord but I have never heard of an ivory netsuke being stained by a silk kimono.

If the yellowish color in you netsuke is not part of the outer part of the tusk there is another explanation.

Originally the whole netsuke could have been stained. Exposure to light through decades have bleached the color creating that contrast.

Nice Sarumawashi.


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DSW90049
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Postby DSW90049 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:09 pm

Old Kappa, you have demolished another cherished netsuke myth.
I was told by more than a few, and also read, in more than a few begginer books which I have devoured, that the Aji, coloring, patina, whatever one calls the discoloration on the back, often flatter, side of ivory Katabori, often figural, netsuke is, in part, due to the chemistry that occurs when human perspiration, the silk of the kimono and the back side of the netsuke all ride along in contact with one another for a while, hence the not unattractive coloring.

If this truly is not true, and I deeply respect your knowledge and experience, then this current cup of coffee which I am drinking, was well worth increasing my attention span so as not to have missed this one!!

& Steamcollector, Really Nice Sarumawashi!!
"There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . . "
Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning, H. Seymour Trower(1898)~~~~David

RAF
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Postby RAF » Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:13 pm


[i:hu9kbuz7] [/i:hu9kbuz7]I have often wondered about the "two-tone" effect on old ivory, and like most, had complex notions of staining, handling, etc. Old Kappa, your notion of simple bleaching is so simple it has to be correct! Classic example of Occam's razor.
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DSW90049
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Postby DSW90049 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:35 pm

Indeed,
[img:2nz6fmv3]http://static.neatoshop.com/images/product/68/468/Occams-Razor_1896-l.jpg[/img:2nz6fmv3]


"There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . . "
Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning, H. Seymour Trower(1898)~~~~David

OldKappa
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Postby OldKappa » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:27 pm

Sorry, don't mistake [i:20cf6p4a]aji[/i:20cf6p4a] and discoloration.

Wear from constant kimono rubbing over a long period of time can be very important. You can see it on this Tekkai sennin, it has almost no nose. The back also has that yellowish color and the whole piece has the translucency that old netsuke get from the natural oils contained in the hands.

It would be a very strange coincidence that kimonos would give a yellowish color to so many netsuke. The most simple explanation would be the yellowish outer rim of elephant tusks and the bleaching power of sunlight.
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1204026_Tekkai_Sennin_att._Garaku_head.jpg

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Vlad
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Postby Vlad » Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:09 pm


Just to add to what has bee already said, a discoloration usually appears as rather lighter spots on the sticking out parts of a netsuke due to wearing off of it's stained surface. The darker outer layer of the tusk can be usually seen on the back side of the netsuke, because this is where it was naturally strategically placed by the carver, and usually has a clear demarcation line on the side, as on the netsuke presented by SteamCollector, or as shown on the picture below ( I believe I've used it already in a similar discussion once before)
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"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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DSW90049
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Postby DSW90049 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:24 pm

A scary thought:
an article on how to clean yellowed portions of elephant ivory:

http://www.ehow.com/how_4548132_clean-yellowed-ivory.html
[i:37lt6cn1]
Ouch . . . (the secret is lemon).[/i:37lt6cn1]

Here's a quote that I found (thank you, Google Books) while pondering all this, from an 1831 issue of [i:37lt6cn1]The Imperial Magazine,[/i:37lt6cn1] discussing color in elephant ivory:

"The component parts of ivory being the same as those of bones (viz. phosphate of lime combined with a gelatinous substance,) and differing only with regard to texture, hardness, and whiteness, the preparations it undergoes in the arts are equally applicable to the bones of animals. [b:37lt6cn1]The whiteness which ivory acquires depends chiefly on the degree of dryness it has obtained. When yellow, its gelatinous matter is altered by the air, and appears to be combined with the oxygen of the atmosphere. Oxygenated muriatic acid will restore it to its original whiteness. [/b:37lt6cn1]Those employed in working ivory, distinguish the [i:37lt6cn1]white [/i:37lt6cn1]and the [i:37lt6cn1]green. [/i:37lt6cn1][b:37lt6cn1]The former is known by the whitish or lemon coloured rind of the tusks[/b:37lt6cn1], the other by the brown and blackish. The green ivory (so called from a greenish or faint olive colour pervading its substance) is preferred, it being of a closer texture, and [b:37lt6cn1]known soon to exchange its green hue for the most beautiful white, which is less liable to turn [/b:37lt6cn1][b:37lt6cn1]yellow.[/b:37lt6cn1] This green ivory is, however, more brittle than the other."
(Emphasis added)

Granted, our science is a bit better in the 21stC than it was back in 1831, but, interestingly, this article was written back when some of our favorite netsuke carvers were busy carving . . .

"There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . . "
Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning, H. Seymour Trower(1898)~~~~David

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Vlad
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Postby Vlad » Sat Oct 01, 2011 1:19 am


Here is another unusual elephant ivory manju I've recently acquired, where the tusk layers are very prominent, easy to identify and used to the artistic benefit of the piece itself - one of the top reasons it attracted my attention to start with.
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1204271_Kanzan-Jittoku_1.JPG
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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NetsukeManiac
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Postby NetsukeManiac » Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:15 am


Thank you to all for the input on my question. I now tend to believe my Surumawashi was born with a yellow backside. If the yellow was built up over a period of time, you would think there would be a gradual gradient of yellow to white, not a clear demarcation line (Good choice of words Vlad. I was trying to conjure up the right word and you found it for me!).


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