A survey of early 20th century cutlery trade catalogues showing the range of styles of knives with ivory handles and those with man-made alternatives. Ivory was used for the handles of high quality knives – table knives, pocket knives, dessert and fish knives, as well as miscellaneous serving items, such as pickle forks and jam spoons. The catalogues show the styles which were available, together with prices. The use of man-made plastics, often with trade names such as ‘Ivorine’ or ‘Ivorygrain’ are useful comparisons.
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge holds wide-ranging collections, particularly from Europe, ancient Egypt, the Near East and the Far East. Objects made from ivories and ivory-like substitutes (e.g. bone), from many different cultures and periods, comprise a significant part of the collections, both historic and archaeological. These include, for example, European and Oriental sculpture, medieval devotional plaques/diptychs, supports for painted miniatures, jewellery, fans and other accessories, gaming pieces, netsuke and ojime, boxes, vessels and decorative inlays (e.g. in furniture, musical instruments, weapons). Following a gift of several hundred netsuke in 2009 an opportunity arose to retain, for research, a small proportion of the duplicates earmarked for disposal. A representative sample was selected, featuring various characteristics of different mammal and vegetable ivories and osseous material. The set will be retained as a reference set for teaching, and to assist with species identification of ivories in the collections.
This poster shows work carried out by a team at the British Museum on a Palaeolithic spear-thrower. The spear-thrower is carved in the shape of a mammoth. However, the object is composed of antler, so is not ivory but only invokes that material through its form. The poster discusses the collaborative approach we followed at the museum involving curator, conservator and analytical scientist, and how this enhanced its interpretation and curation. The study can be used as an example of how such collaborative work can aid the understanding and treatment of Palaeolithic art on bone, antler and ivory.