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Old 17th December 2012, 04:12 PM   #31
T. Koch
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Detlef, thank you for the picture. I'm duly aware that the interstitial zone of hippo tusks sometimes produce dark inclusions along the lateral margins, but similar "spots in a row" can be found in other types of ivory: The inner cementum of walrus or longitudinally along deep age cracks in tusks of the proboscids, for example. I was just hoping that maybe you had an academic reference up your sleeve to tie them to the hippo.

In general I think one should exercise care in assigning a source species to any ivory based on one character alone. -this goes x10 when we're doing it from photographs of course. I can recommend the article "Unusual appearance of Schreger-like pattern in Hippopotamus amphibius ivory" (Simms, 2010). -I don't agree with their conclusions, but their findings illustrate this point very well.


Best wishes, - Thor
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:47 AM   #32
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Hello Thor,

Quote:
I'm duly aware that the interstitial zone of hippo tusks sometimes produce dark inclusions along the lateral margins, but similar "spots in a row" can be found in other types of ivory: The inner cementum of walrus or longitudinally along deep age cracks in tusks of the proboscids, for example.

Do you have any pics of such examples? The mottled areas of walrus make it usually less difficult to spot if the pieces are of reasonable size; while I have also seen spots with elephant, these seemed much less regularly distributed compared to hippo.

Quote:
I was just hoping that maybe you had an academic reference up your sleeve to tie them to the hippo.

Thanks for the reminder - still need to search my wide sleeves...

Quote:
In general I think one should exercise care in assigning a source species to any ivory based on one character alone. -this goes x10 when we're doing it from photographs of course.

D'accord.

Quote:
I can recommend the article "Unusual appearance of Schreger-like pattern in Hippopotamus amphibius ivory" (Simms, 2010). -I don't agree with their conclusions, but their findings illustrate this point very well.

Here's the link !

Regards,
Kai
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Old 18th December 2012, 02:23 PM   #33
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From the pictures I feel quite convinced that this hilt is made from hippo ivory as said by Detlef for the following reasons (not supported by any academic research but only practical experience):
. The dotted line is very characteristic of the hippo ivory and different from the age cracks of elephant ivory.
. Walrus ivory has a marble appearance if observed in cross view and this should reflect on the external visual appearance of the hilt, which is not the case.
. I have some doubts that walrus ivory was widely used for making kris hilts because it would involve trading links with Russia while it is widely accepted that the Bugis traded hippo and elephant ivory with East Africa, either directly or with the Omanis who controlled the area.
I refer you to the well-documented book from Wolfgang Schilling: "Faszination kris - Zauber des Materials" about the subject.
By the way I never observed any Schreger/ Retzius line in a piece supposedly made from hippo ivory...
Of course I remain open to discussion and am ready to change my mind if anybody can convince me otherwise
Best regards
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Old 18th December 2012, 05:01 PM   #34
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Hello Thor,

sorry for my late reply. I also don't have any academic research/opinon for my point of view. My position is based on facts like explained from Jean. I also refer you to the book from Wolfgang Schilling who is a friend collector from me. Sadly it will be difficult to get the book, the edition was very small.
A 100% safe result will be possible only by DNA anlysis IMHO.

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 20th December 2012, 08:53 AM   #35
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Attached are the pictures of a similar hilt also made from hippo ivory I think, please note that the crest and "nose" have been damaged. The piece from Gustav may have been dyed as normally hippo ivory stays very white even after a long time (I saw few exceptions though).
Regards
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Old 20th December 2012, 10:08 AM   #36
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Over perhaps a few years now I have read the many and various posts and opinions on hilts made from supposedly hippo ivory, walrus ivory, this ivory, that ivory, and some other ivory. I've looked at close-up pictures of dotted lines that supposedly prove that the material is hippo ivory, I've looked at pictures of vague ivory grains that supposedly prove the material is some other sort of ivory. It seems almost everybody knows more about this exotic discipline of ivory identification than I do, so I have pretty much stayed out of the discussion.

However, it seems to me that somewhere, sometime during the last forty odd years of visits to Indonesia and long wandering conversations with collectors and dealers in keris and other objects in Indonesia, I would have heard some mention of hippo ivory. But I never have.

It seems that in my reading on historic trade links with the Old East Indies I would have somewhere stumbled across some mention of hippo ivory coming into what is now Indonesia. I never have.

The hilts that I see presented as hippo ivory seem to be almost universally described by dealers and collectors in Indonesia as "tulang ikan" = "fish bone", or "gigi ikan paus" = "whale tooth". I've never heard even the smallest whisper of "kuda nil", or "badak sungai" = hippopotamus.

Now, I'm not saying that this total absence of any acknowledgement by the people most closely concerned with keris, and most especially with the extraction of money from the trade in keris, is evidence that these hilts of supposedly hippo ivory are indeed, not hippo ivory. But it does seem strange that if the possibility is there, that these incredibly clever traders would ignore the chance to raise the exotica stakes a notch or two by throwing some hippo into the money mix.

So, is it barely possible that this hippo business is just another collector myth?

Where is the beginning and foundation for these claims that some hilts are made from hippo ivory?

Do we have any good, solid, incontrovertible evidence of just one hilt that is beyond the shadow of any doubt made of hippo ivory?

Or do we have opinions that choose to ignore the accumulated knowledge of the demographic most closely associated with the keris?

Quite frankly, I had never heard even the smallest suggestion that those poor old hippos in far away Africa had been contributing their body parts to the glorification of keris in Maritime South East Asia, until very recently.

I'd really like to try to understand how the whole thing happened.

Can somebody point me at an academic paper, or article, or report where an adequate analysis of the materials used in keris hilts demonstrates beyond any doubt that hippo ivory was used to create just one hilt? Or possibly some old trade inventories that list hippo ivory coming into Batavia or some other port in the Old Indies?
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:38 AM   #37
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Dear Allan,

Interesting question.
Antique dealers and also antique magazines in the west more or less agree that the dotted line indicates hippo ivory.
But I must believe you when you say this term is not used in Indonesia.

Best would be to go to the source and check with the people making these hilts. Do they ever have pieces of hippo ivory in stock ?
Have you ever seen the raw materials in Indonesia which they use ? this would indeed be very intersting.

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 20th December 2012, 12:38 PM   #38
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Dear Alan and Willem,
Thank you for your interesting comments and again I have no academic background nor proven evidence that these hilts are made from hippo ivory but wish to reply as follows:
. All the ivory hilts supposedly made from hippo ivory which I saw or own are either from Sulawesi or Sumatra/ Malaysia, so the Javanese or Balinese dealers or experts are not very qualified to identify them IMO.
. The trading between Bugis sailors and East Africa or Oman (which controlled Zanzibar and Tanzania ports until beginning of 20th century) was well established in the past, I will try to find more written evidence.
. The external dotted line is connected to the interstitial zone found in hippo ivory and not other species as far as I know.
. All the hilts supposedly made from hippo ivory which I saw are old (circa 100 years or more) and the hippo ivory trading with Indonesia vanished long time ago so I doubt that you can find any Indonesian hilt maker familiar with the materials nowadays (but probably in China).
. For those of you who like myself are familiar with such pieces, the materials looks and feels very different from the other ivory species from it high density, white colour, and very polished aspect, and it ages much better than elephant ivory for instance (no cracks). Spermwhale tooth ivory is also different because its colour is darker inside.
Well, this is my last attempt to convince you on the subject and I will welcome the opinion of experts.
Regards
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Old 20th December 2012, 01:23 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
Dear Alan and Willem,
Thank you for your interesting comments and again I have no academic background nor proven evidence that these hilts are made from hippo ivory but wish to reply as follows:
. All the ivory hilts supposedly made from hippo ivory which I saw or own are either from Sulawesi or Sumatra/ Malaysia, so the Javanese or Balinese dealers or experts are not very qualified to identify them IMO.
. The trading between Bugis sailors and East Africa or Oman (which controlled Zanzibar and Tanzania ports until beginning of 20th century) was well established in the past, I will try to find more written evidence.
. The external dotted line is connected to the interstitial zone found in hippo ivory and not other species as far as I know.
. All the hilts supposedly made from hippo ivory which I saw are old (circa 100 years or more) and the hippo ivory trading with Indonesia vanished long time ago so I doubt that you can find any Indonesian hilt maker familiar with the materials nowadays (but probably in China).
. For those of you who like myself are familiar with such pieces, the materials looks and feels very different from the other ivory species from it high density, white colour, and very polished aspect, and it ages much better than elephant ivory for instance (no cracks). Spermwhale tooth ivory is also different because its colour is darker inside.
Well, this is my last attempt to convince you on the subject and I will welcome the opinion of experts.
Regards


Agree in all points with you Jean and know also what Willem write about hippo ivory. Never have seen a hippo ivory hilt from Java or Bali.

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 20th December 2012, 05:01 PM   #40
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Default Hippo Teeth

I have seen numerous examples of Hippo Tooth for sale on gunbroker.com .
Usually from a Seller located in Florida .
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Old 20th December 2012, 05:56 PM   #41
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I also believe that the sample above is actually hippo ivory. Not much evidence to form a basis of my belief apart from the dotted line present on hippo ivory matches with the one on these hilts and the following observations.

I noticed that there are 3 main types of ivory normally used to make keris hilts. Elephant (with cross hatch), "hippo" (mainly refered to as "gigi ikan" with the dots) and another one with no dots or cross hatch. The third type is normally smaller in size. Probably this is the real "gigi ikan"?

The thing about "gigi ikan" versus elephant ivory and hippo's tooth is that, some people here consider "gigi ikan" as clean while elephant ivory and hippo (if that is the material) as unclean according to teachings in Islam. Probably this is the reason why the material is being presented as gigi ikan in the first place.

Currently, "hippo" ivory fetches a bit higher price here as opposed to elephant ivory (probably for the above reason) However when we look to old Malay saying "Sudah dapat gading betuah, tanduk tidak berguna lagi". Meaning a person had something much more valuable (elephant ivory) compared to horn.

If "gigi ikan" is being regarded highly in the old days, probably the saying will say "sudah dapat gigi ikan bertuah...." but this is not the case. (Notice that the cleanliness issue does not seem to play any role here) Probably people the really old times are not aware or does not subscribe to the belief that elephant ivory are unclean hence the above old saying. Therefore, my speculation that this "gigi ikan" thing is actually market driven due to the cleanliness issue that arose not very long ago.

But, it's just my speculation that is built on a very brittle foundation..
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Old 20th December 2012, 07:07 PM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rasdan
I noticed that there are 3 main types of ivory normally used to make keris hilts. Elephant (with cross hatch), "hippo" (mainly refered to as "gigi ikan" with the dots) and another one with no dots or cross hatch. The third type is normally smaller in size. Probably this is the real "gigi ikan"?


Hello Rasdan,
Thank you for the interesting Malaysian perspective. Gigi ikan (fish tooth) should normally refer to the spermwhale tooth (the most common) and dugong tooth/tusk (rarer and smaller in size), and they are known as marine ivory. I am not mentioning walrus ivory as I don't think that it was commonly used in the Malay region.
I checked the book Senjata Pusaka Bugis and found that they described most of the old ivory hilts shown in the book as dugong ivory (and few as elephant ivory), but I have my doubts about it considering the size and curvature of the Bugis hilts.
Regards
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Old 20th December 2012, 07:43 PM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
. The trading between Bugis sailors and East Africa or Oman (which controlled Zanzibar and Tanzania ports until beginning of 20th century) was well established in the past, I will try to find more written evidence.


Jean, I would be very interested in a written evidence regarding this point, becouse I searched for it and found nothing that would support a theory of direct trade between Bugis and Africa.
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Old 20th December 2012, 07:43 PM   #44
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First and foremost, let me be very clear:-

Jean, my remarks were not an attack upon you, nor upon anybody else.

I am simply try to get some solid evidence for the "hippo ivory" thing. As I have already remarked:- I have never heard mention of hippos until a few years ago. Why?

Jean, there is not challenge to trade links between Maritime SE Asia and Africa and the Middle East. It is established fact that trade was carried on for hundreds of years; the Malays began to extend trade links in about the 5th century, and there are populations of Malay people in a number of other countries, including a large presence in Madagascar --- just off the coast of Africa. There is no need to prove any connection between Maritime SE Asia and places far west, that connection is well documented and not at all open to challenge.

There is no difficulty at all in presenting a logical argument that hippo ivory could have made it to SE Asia, and could have been used in hilts.

But in my questioning post I did not ask for re-iteration of possibilities, beliefs nor logical argument. I asked for something slightly more positive.

In respect of this material only appearing in Sumatera and Peninsula hilts, well, maybe. These are the only hilts that have that pistol grip like curve that requires maximum manipulation of the material; in a Javanese or Balinese hilt the same material could be used and the ugly flaw of a dotted line avoided. The material could have been used, but we simply do not know.

I have a number of the hilts of the type that is associated with hippos. A couple have dotted lines, most do not. Mix these hilts, close your eyes, and try to identify one from the other. I've tried this, and I cannot. They all feel exactly the same. As to patina:- with the ones I have, he patina on the ones with dotted lines is pretty much the same as on the others, which I believe are marine ivory. Possibly others have a more sensitive touch than do I, and can differentiate on this basis, but I cannot.

I have a moderate collection of ivory pieces , and over 100 ivory keris hilts. Some pieces of known whales tooth do have colour variation on inside and outside, others do not.

Rasdan, thank you for your input. In my experience ordinary people in Indonesia do not differentiate between one kind of ivory and another. Its all "gading", even tagua nuts are referred to as gading by non-specialists and non-dealers. Why? Because to ordinary people all ivory -like materials look the same . Thus, if we have a colloquial expression --- " no use for horn if you've already got ivory" one could not reasonably expect a differentiation in colloquial usage.

If in Malaysia supposed hippo now brings a higher price than other ivory, it would interest me to know when this began to occur. I am inclined to believe that here we have evidence of input from the western world affecting the Malay market. Not dissimilar to the well known Keris Majapahit example.

Gigi ikan is a term that I would never expect to hear in Indonesia from a person with no keris connections, nor dealer connections.

Now, we've had a recitation of belief. It has been interesting and I accept it as belief. Maybe even entrenched belief. Is there anything just a little stronger out there?
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:56 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav
Jean, I would be very interested in a written evidence regarding this point, becouse I searched for it and found nothing that would support a theory of direct trade between Bugis and Africa.


Hello Gustav,
Alan replied to this point and he is fully correct that some of the Madagascar people are from mixed Malay origin. I will try to find more written evidence about the subject.
Regards
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:07 AM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
I have seen numerous examples of Hippo Tooth for sale on gunbroker.com .
Usually from a Seller located in Florida .


Hello Rick,
Yes indeed, if you google "hippo ivory sale" you will find this site which proposes many tusks at a very attractive price (cheaper than registered elephant ivory).
Regards
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:20 AM   #47
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Jean, I don't know if these are Bugis people. The references I have only say "Malay".

They might be Bugis, but I don't know.

What I'm mostly interested in is this:-

when was the first mention of hippo ivory being used in these hilts, who made it, and upon what basis.

Following on from that, the proof that these hilts are definitely hippo ivory, not just the possibility that they could be hippo ivory.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:21 AM   #48
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I found a recent and interesting article about the various types of ivory at the following address:
http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/zoogems/ivory.html
Nothing very new in it but a good summary with references and it confirms the dotted line and the higher density of hippo ivory (and spermwhale ivory) than elephant ivory especially. It also says that Schreger lines are only found in elephant or mamooth ivory
Regards

Last edited by Jean : 21st December 2012 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 21st December 2012, 10:59 AM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Jean, I don't know if these are Bugis people. The references I have only say "Malay".

They might be Bugis, but I don't know.


Hello Alan,
If you google "Malagasy people" and select Wikipedia you will read that: the "first Austronesian settlers (in Madagascar) arrived between the 3rd and 10th century from Borneo" but I can't comment on it and agree that they may be Bugis or not.
Regards
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:02 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
Hello Gustav,
Alan replied to this point and he is fully correct that some of the Madagascar people are from mixed Malay origin. I will try to find more written evidence about the subject.
Regards


Jean, Madagascar people had nothing to do with Bugis trade. Regarding the settlement of Madagascar, it is still absolutely unclear if it was a deliberate act (more or less regular visits of Austronesians) or an accident. As I understand, the latest insights incline to see it as an onetime accident. More clear seems now, these people should be of South Borneo origin, and for sure this settlement was completed before 900 AD.

As I said, I searched a while ago about Bugis trade, and I even don't have found evidence Bugis traded directly with Ceylon=the Bugis vessels have reached Ceylon.
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:22 PM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav
Jean, Madagascar people had nothing to do with Bugis trade.


Gustav,
I agree, the Malay settlement in Madagascar occurred much earlier than the Bugis trade indeed.
Regards
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:13 PM   #52
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Hi Jean,

The ones they have in the keris bugis book I think is probably sperm whale tooth. (Again a guessing game here) In the past, I had bought something that is being sold as dugong tooth. It's certainly does not look like ivory. Looks more like bone. (If it is really dugong's tooth that is - I don't even know if dugongs have large teeth/tusks to tell you the truth) It is very small to have a bugis hilt to be carved out of it, so I had it made into a hilt by gluing it section by section.

G'day Alan,

Yes, I agree that probably everything that look like ivory is labeled as elephant ivory by the general public in the past. This had probably annulled my second point.

But, what about the dots? It really correlates with the dots on hippo ivory. Pattani pekaka hilts (large Jawa Demam) is normally made from this kind of material and it can be very large. It is hard for me to imagine any ivory other than elephant that can provide the size. I certainly have very little experience with this kind of material, but are there any other type of material that have these dots? (I had seen these dots in a picture of a cross section of hippo ivory, but can't find it at the moment)

I have to make clear about the market of gigi ikan and elephant ivory here in Malaysia. The difference is not quite substantial. If we have two similar hilt, one is elephant and one is marine, the marine is gonna be a bit expensive. If we only have elephant, the the price would be pretty much the same with the marine one.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:29 PM   #53
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Jean, one of my deficiencies is that I am somewhat of a dinosaur.

I very seldom use internet sources for serious research, and when I do, I look for reference works or citations attached to the net source.

Regrettably Wikipedia very often has neither and that is the case with this Malagasy reference you have directed me to. In essence, it is somebody's opinion, but we don't know who, and we don't know how reliable that opinion is.

But in any case, all of this is very much off to one side. There is plenty of evidence of far reaching Malay trade links, and even if the Malays themselves were not roaming hither and yon, other peoples from far west were wandering over to S.E.Asia. Lots of movement.

I do not deny the possibility of hippos contributing to keris accoutrements.

That is not at all what was in my mind when I began this chain of posts.

Two questions:-

1) who first raised the matter of hippo ivory being used in keris hilts, and when was this first raised?

2) what solid evidence exists that can substantiate that possibility and turn it into fact?

This is what I would like to know.

Until we have answers to these two questions, especially the second one, the possibility of hippo ivory used as material for keris hilts is just that:- a possibility. No more.

As an aside, there is a theory that everything in the world gradually moves to the east. I have bought genuine, excavated, Roman beads (authenticated) in Jawa. No reason why hippo ivory should not have moved to the east, along with a multitude of other things. That is possibility. What I would like to see is positivity.


Rasdan, I know there are dots in some hilts.

I also know that in spite of all the ivory I own, I know very little about ivory, certainly not sufficient to identify simply by looking and lifting whether something comes from one beast, or a different beast.

Accordingly, I am not arguing against the possibility of hippo ivory in keris hilts.

I am asking for two things, as above.

With those answers I can then begin to wonder why it is that I have never heard mention of hippo ivory until very, very recently. Did the old-timers not know from what beast the material their keris hilts came? Then there is the dealer question. Dealers are sharp. They pass up on nothing that might generate an extra few rupiah.
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:43 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rasdan
I had seen these dots in a picture of a cross section of hippo ivory, but can't find it at the moment



Dear Rasdan,

look post #15 this thread. Agree with you that this dots a very clear sign for hippo ivory.

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 22nd December 2012, 12:38 AM   #55
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G'day Alan,

Yes if we are about to scientifically prove that it is hippo then what we had been doing is certainly inadequate and I surely don't have any answers..

Hi Detlef,

Wow, the picture is right there and I can't remember?. Must be that apocalypse thing. (actually I jumped to the end of the thread ) Thanks for kindly pointing out the pic!
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Old 22nd December 2012, 06:51 AM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rasdan
Hi Detlef,

Wow, the picture is right there and I can't remember?. Must be that apocalypse thing. (actually I jumped to the end of the thread ) Thanks for kindly pointing out the pic!



Hi Rasdan,

have posted the same picture by a other thread some time ago, I think you remember it from this time.

Regards,

Detlef
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Old 23rd December 2012, 06:09 AM   #57
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Thanks Rasdan.

But if we cannot prove this hippo ivory thing, is it possible to at least identify the first time that it was raised as a possibility, upon what basis, and by whom?
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Old 23rd December 2012, 11:05 AM   #58
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Dear Alan,

The spotted line is only found in hippo ivory.
Probably it is a western collector thing that we want to know the exact origin of ivory, and that we not accept a term as "marine ivory".

One of your points is that salesmen in Indonesia do not use the term hippo.
But do they make a big selling point of the fact if a hilt is made from elefant ivory ?
And in these cases do they specifiy this into asian elephant, african elephant and/or even mammoth ivory ?

Best regards,
Willem
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Old 23rd December 2012, 12:57 PM   #59
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Well, i will say that personal, from my own preferences as a Western collector, i am less interested in exactly what kind of ivory a hilt might be made of than i am the quality of the carving and the condition and patina of the piece. Elephant or hippo, i could care less really. It does seem to me that marine ivory (a term i do accept and usually assume is whale tooth since most dungong doesn't seem to have the mass to allow for the carving of many hilt forms) tends to age to a nice warm orange color that i do really like, but beyond that i really have no ivory preferences.
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Old 23rd December 2012, 01:40 PM   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Thanks Rasdan.

But if we cannot prove this hippo ivory thing, is it possible to at least identify the first time that it was raised as a possibility, upon what basis, and by whom?


Hello Alan,
I think that it will be very difficult to identify when and where the hippo ivory issue for making kris hilts started or when it was first documented, especially because it probably happened a long time ago and not in Java nor Bali.
And about scientifically proving the hippo ivory thing we would need to resort to a recognized materials analysis laboratory but personally I have no access to any at present. According to the litterature (Webster) the physical properties of hippo ivory differ from elephant ivory especially its specific gravity (1.8 to 1.95 versus 1.7 to 1.85) and its hardness (5 versus 2.5-3, this is the most marked difference). This shows the more mineralized structure of hippo ivory. These 2 physical differences are well (although qualitatively) reflected in the hilts attributed to hippo ivory IMO, together with the generally better ageing performance (less discolouring and cracks) and the presence of the famous dotted line. There are probably some more modern and decisive techniques (radiation, DNA analysis) able to differentiate them also but I am not aware of any.
What do our distinguished members from Singapore have to say about the subject?
Regards

Last edited by Jean : 23rd December 2012 at 03:10 PM.
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