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Ivory Identification, a new book

Discussions and analysis of Elephant Ivory
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Postby Norman » Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:25 am

Book review of
Ivory Identification, a Photographic Reference Guide
by William R. (Bobby) Mann & Charles M. Marts (2012)
by Norman L. Sandfield
January 3, 2013

You, too, can learn to identify the various kinds of ivory that exist in many antiques, jewelry, and art forms!

Correctly identifying and distinguishing between different types of ivory (teeth, tusks, etc.) and ivory look-alikes has always been considered a complex, often even frustrating, issue for collectors and dealers alike. Fortunately, it can be taught and learned, given the right visual tools. Bobby Mann has one of the largest collections of ivories put together for educational purposes: raw materials, sliced materials, carved objects, and fakes of all kinds, which are the highlights of this book. These hundreds of items have been the basis of his comprehensive Ivory Identification Workshops for more than ten years. [Caveat: I have taken this extraordinary course from the author, and know him through the International Ivory Society]. This simple and straight-forward 20-page book with more than 100 photographs illustrates the key elements in identifying the most common ivories. Materials covered include: elephant, mammoth, walrus, hippopotamus, whale, narwhal, warthog, boar, seal teeth, elk teeth, bone, antler, palm nuts, hornbill, Meerschaum, and plastic and polymer resins.

The authors start with “How to Examine Ivory” and provide a list of “Suggested Tools.” Color photographs of raw and carved objects, are accompanied by the text listing the key elements in identifying each.

The previous standard in the field was:

Thomas Kenneth Penniman (1895- ), Pictures of Ivory and Other Animal Teeth, Bone and Antler; With a Brief Commentary on Their Use in Identification. Occasional Papers on Technology, #5. 1952, 1984, Oxford, England: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Paperbound; 40 pages; plus 20 black and white plates with 48 photographs.

This new book is much better because of the color photographs and printing technology now available.

The only tool mentioned that most readers will not have at hand is a long-wave UV (Ultraviolet) lamp, which is available online starting at about $90. However, the photographs in the books will satisfy most readers in all but the most rare situations, without the need for a UV lamp.

This guide is Book 1 in a series of Ivory Identification books. For those specialists who want or need to know even more, two additional in-depth books are in the process of being written by the authors:

Book 2: “Ivory Identification, a Photographic Companion” will be approximately 90 pages and deal more in depth with all the Ivory, substitutes and imitations covered in the Ivory Identification Workshops.

Book 3: “The Complete Ivory Identification Book” will be approximately 400 pages and cover all of the above, in addition to related items from the mammals, such as Elephant teeth & pearl, Whale Baleen, fossilized samples of ivory and more.

The book costs $20 plus shipping, and may be ordered from HP Mag Cloud Publications’ web-site at

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Postby chonchon » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:26 am

Sounds like a good book to have and cheap at that price! Thanks for the flag.

Size is something.

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Postby Vlad » Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:32 pm

A fake ivory 'masterpiece' currently on eBay. They are getting better, but not good enough yet...;)
Buyer beware!
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Postby souldeep » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:00 pm

Thanks for the heads up Vlad. As you know I'm in the market for some Shishi style Netsuke but avoided these purely based on the advice I have learnt here the past few weeks about repeating lines in synthetics.
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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Postby GiantSquid » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:05 pm

They've still a very long way to go to fool the educated eye. As is often said here, if something doesn't feel right, pass.
It remains difficult to fake the real thing!
"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." John Maynard Keynes, 1883 - 1946

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