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A variety of ivory from the tusks (incisor teeth) of elephants. Good-quality ivory, from male and female elephants, comes from Africa (mellow in colour and resilient) and India (white and drier, yellowing with age); elephants in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) are usually tuskless, in Asia only the male has tusks, and the finest ivory is said to come from Thailand (formerly Siam).
The tusks have fine longitudinal canals containing a gelatinous substance that provides the high polish. In cross-section it shows intersecting arcs that resemble engine-turning on metal and ceramic ware, which distinguishes elephant ivory from all other varieties.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson
Due to the rapid decline in the populations of the animals that produce it, the importation and sale of ivory in many countries is banned or severely restricted. Much of the decline in population is due to poachers during and before the 1980s. Since the worldwide ivory trade ban in 1989 there have been ups and downs in elephant populations, and ivory trade as bans have been placed and lifted.
Many African countries including Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana claim that ivory trade is necessary—both to stimulate their economies and reduce elephant populations which are allegedly harming the environment. A 1999 study done by Oxford University found that less than one percent of the five-hundred million US dollars ivory sales generated ever reach Africans; most of it goes to middlemen and vendors. However, in 2002 the United Nations partially lifted the ban on ivory trade, allowing a few countries to export certain amounts of ivory.
The effectiveness of the policy is in question, in light of the study preceding the ban, and an updated study would be needed to evaluate the current state of the ivory trade.