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Soapbox & Opinions


A jeweller’s right to boycott

Does the local jewellery industry really contribute to the illegal trade of one of the world’s most contentious materials? NICHOLAS DE KLERK believes so and says it’s about time jewellers took responsibility.

Jewellers are in the fortunate position nowadays to leverage the benefits of technology advancements. Never before have design possibilities and access to metals and gemstones been so great.

Having so many options and opportunities, it baffles me as to why the industry considers ivory to be an acceptable material from which to work.

I admit that I have begrudgingly repaired some ivory pieces but I have hated doing so and made this clear to my customers. I have never added ivory to repair pieces and have instead glued the item together or added metal to cover the missing ivory.

I only accepted the work on the basis that the items were well over 50 years old and that repairing the jewellery meant the animal didn’t die in vain; however, after further investigation into the trade of ivory and the means used to kill these animals, I have decided even that is not good enough.

I believe a zero tolerance approach should be introduced in Australia – all imports and sales of ivory should be banned. The only way to stop the illegal trade of ivory is to ban the legal trade as well.

A demanding Chinese market heavily influences the rampant poaching of elephants in Africa. Chinese authorities have imposed a one-year ban on the importation of carved ivory products from Africa but the move will do little to stem the huge illegal industry.

A 2013 National Geographic survey of middle and upper-class Chinese consumers (annual income of CNY200,000 (AU$43,760) and above) indicated that 84 per cent planned to buy ivory goods. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents also said that making ivory illegal to purchase under any circumstances would be the most effective way to stop ivory trading.

Recent efforts to curb black market trading have taken place across the world. In March this year, six tonnes of ivory were torched in Ethiopia – the nation’s entire stockpile collected over a long period of time from illegal and legal sources. The ivory was publicly burned to demonstrate its worthlessness and occurred two weeks after similar action was taken in Kenya.

In 2013, and again earlier this year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service publicly crushed tonnes of ivory in demonstration against the massive illegal trade globally and within the US itself.

There is a huge movement underway in the US to ban the sale of this material. US wildlife experts believe that controls to determine the origins of ivory sources are flawed, making it impossible to determine from where ivory is sourced. In 2014, New Jersey and Vermont were the first states to heavily restrict ivory commerce and, as of February 2015, New Jersey has imposed a ban on the sale of ivory products.

As of March this year, California, Vermont, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington have introduced measures to stamp out ivory and rhino horn trade. Action is also underway in Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington DC for bans regardless of how or where the material is sourced.


Ivory is seen to have great value in some societies and the legal trade of ivory under the pre-CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certificate suggests the material holds value. If ivory is seen to hold no value then the poaching will stop.

Australia has strict controls on imports under the CITES Act – elephant products cannot be imported without a pre-CITES certificate and products already in the country come under the Protection Of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. However, illegal ivory products valued at $80,000 were seized in Sydney last year. Unlike other seizures in the past, where the ivory was heading to another country, this instance involved carved products and jewellery ready for sale. This means there’s a market here, a thought that disgusts me.

We as jewellers can help stop the illegal trade in ivory by refusing to create or repair jewellery made from the material.
I say don’t repair it, don’t buy it and don’t sell it. The small act of rejecting that one piece can contribute to putting a stop to a disgraceful and destructive industry. I won’t go into the devastating impact of the poaching in Africa here. Google the statistics; they’re both mind blowing and sickening.

Ban ivory altogether! Let’s face it, are you really sure where it came from?

Name: Nicholas de Klerk
Business: de Klerk and Pinn Jewellers
Position: managing director
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 22 and counting

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Sunday, 08 December, 2019 03:44am
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