Photo: public domain, religious art from unknown French artist
How long has ivory been considered valuable? Archeologists have been discovering the answer: 35,000 years.
In 2007, archeologists in southwest Germany were amazed to find a small ivory art piece carved meticulously depicting its source – a wooly mammoth figure.
Other figurines found nearby (dating back only 33,000 years) include a horse head, a half man/half cat, and a duck.
Although there has been talk of destroying ivory art, even in Buckingham Palace, that tactic seems extreme. Many of the pieces are exquisite, offering insight into the past and showcasing extraordinary artistic talent.
What is a more difficult question is what to do with ancient artworks on the marketplace? It is difficult for officials to date many of the pieces, and authentic-looking copies can be made with newly killed elephant ivory.
This summer, the US restricted antique sales to ivory officially dated 100+ years. Antique dealers have mostly left the ivory market, citing concerns about the high costs of dating objects as well as fears of government fines or raids.
People who have antique ivory are encouraged to donate it to museums or send it to the Fish and Wildlife Service depository. People can legally keep it for their own personal collection as well.