Manolo Jewelry » Agony and Ivory

Agony and Ivory

By La Petite Acadienne

The recent contretemps about John Galliano has gotten me to thinking about ethics and fashion.

Obviously, everybody has their own standards. Some folks rival Cruella de Ville and would happily wear a coat fashioned from baby beagles, trimmed with kitten noses, and crafted by Satan himself.  Others do Ph.D.-worthy research before buying so much as a pair of socks, to make sure that the purchase is ethical and that the owner of the company only eats organic quinoa and regularly helps old ladies cross the street.

My coworker came up to me the other day, showing me some jewelry that she thought I’d find interesting (she knows about this blog). She spent much of her childhood in Africa, and her folks bought some pieces while there.

One of the pieces was an elephant ivory bracelet.

Objectively, it’s a beautiful piece. Stunning, in fact.

I haven’t seen her wear it, and didn’t think to ask if she does, in fact, ever put it on. And I started thinking: would I wear it?

I would never BUY ivory jewelry.  But, if it were inherited, would I wear it? Would that be considered to be supporting the ivory trade in spirit, if not in dollar?

Honestly, I don’t know. It would be a shame for a beautiful piece like that bracelet to never be worn, especially considering that wearing it isn’t going to directly support ivory poachers or anything. But part of me might always feel uneasy or a little guilty about wearing it.

What say you?



7 Responses to “Agony and Ivory”

  1. Cassie Says:

    I will reference, here, something I almost never do. There was an episode of “The Nanny” where this same question came up, but in relation to an inherited mink coat.

    My feelings are as follows. If you have fond memories of the person who left it to you, there’s no reason to not wear it if you want to. If you don’t like the piece, or it doesn’t mean anything to you other than “well, Auntie liked it”, then don’t wear it.

    Ivory, or fur, that’s inherited, I view it this way. The animals who gave their lives for it are already gone. Not wearing it won’t bring them back, and you didn’t pay money for it, so you’re not supporting the poachers who do it now. If you like it, wear it. Otherwise, sell it or give it to someone who will.

  2. wildflower Says:

    I respectfully disagree with Cassie’s well-reasoned post.

    The problem I have is that you are propagating a particular look. If a stranger admires your mink coat or your ivory bracelet, that person could well turn around and buy one when she otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s a problem that also exists with fake fur.

    I think the original post summed it up nicely for me, in saying that it’s “supporting the ivory trade in spirit, if not in dollar”.

  3. Jane2 Says:

    I’ve seen the downside of the fur debate….cute baby seal eyes aside, the trapping economy of northern Saskatchewan was annihilated while the people who destroyed the fur industry didn’t give one thought to the Metis and First Nations people who depended on it for their livelihoods. So I’m a little jaded about the pious “oh you’re supporting blah blah when you blah”.

    I’ll wear fur (I have a fabulous Russian coat with a fur lined hood) because it’s minus 500 fricking degrees for much of January (well, and now…thank you, global warming). I’d also wear an historical ivory piece….I’m with Cassie. I wouldn’t wear diamonds, but I don’t care for diamonds. Heck, I have a pendant with a piece of the One True Cross (authenticated!)….I’d wear it too.

  4. wildflower Says:

    Jane2, I agree with you about fur in particular. I’m Alaskan, and for the most part, fur is sustainably wild-harvested hereabouts. On the other hand, I do believe fur is becoming obsolete for reasons that have nothing to do with animal welfare. It’s just because modern materials are lighter, warmer, and lower-maintenance than fur. Look at polar and mountain expeditioners nowadays–no fur among them. The most I could justify for practicality purposes is a wolverine ruff on a parka.

    Regarding the collapse of the fur industry, I’m sincerely sorry for those folks who lost their livelihoods. But tradition is no excuse to support an industry that one believes to be morally abhorrent. Tradition alone cannot be a driving force in society. Otherwise… Fire? Who needs it? As for those new-fangled “wheel” thingies…

    But the whole fur debate is a huge digression from the original post! The original post I think was more general, addressing how you’d react to something morally abhorrent *to you*, whether that’s fur or anything else.

  5. Thea Says:

    I have to go with Cassie on this – as stunning as I looked in the leopard coat I tried on at a vintage fair – I wouldn’t want to encourage others to kill something to get the same look…..and fur isn’t currently the most efficient garment available for cold weather wear

  6. ChaChaheels Says:

    I’m with Jane2. Nothing beats fur in the cold, that’s why it was (and continues to be) so highly prized by First Nations and Metis people here. I know down/polyester/mountain equipment coop whatever–but y’all are aware that stuff is petrochemically sourced (and not sustainably), made by children and other underpaid labourers in countries where human life is considered valueless, and does include fowl down, right? So it is not exactly “green” nor is it exactly cruelty free. To add insult, despite the propaganda, it doesn’t touch fur for warmth. Not even on a good day.

    That being said–the bracelet is an heirloom piece. If you’re the owner of such a piece, your job is to care for it in order to ensure it will be handed on to the next generation’s heir. Elephant poaching goes on in the world for reasons that have little to do with “the ivory trade”, as most of the ivory in demand happens to be the antique variety anyway, so if anything, you’d only be increasing the demand for antique ivory, which helps if you have no heirs in mind and want to sell it.

    I’d wear it proudly (but only if I really loved it).

  7. BeckyJ Says:

    I have an ivory necklace that I inherited from my grandmother. I wear it both because it’s beautiful and because it was hers. I don’t think I’m supporting the ivory trade “in spirit” because as others here have pointed out, 1) it’s an antique and has more value there than as ivory per se and 2) whatever elephant it originally belonged to died probably in the 1920s and not wearing it will not bring that elephant back, nor will it alone cause another elephant to be killed. Having said that, I would not buy ivory nor do I wear fur.

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