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Shishi Netsuke


Dick Bonham

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Hi,

I bought this netsuke and am trying to figure what kind of material it was carved from. At one point I thought it might be plastic but it passes the very, very hot brad test. If I hit it with my NSK tool and a carbide bit it smells like burnt ivory. The surface has a very high polish. There is a lot of wear on the bottom from the ring that seems to have held the cord. Any ideas?

Dick

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Hi Dick,

 

When I was in college, I wrote a paper on the identification of ivory, bone, and antler. (sorry, I don't have it an electronic version, these were the typewriter days). The marbled interior dentin is clearly visible, and indicative of walrus ivory. No other material has this structure.

 

Sorry you burned a hole in it.

 

Phil

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I agree with Phil, though I have not studied as he has. The marbled interior is the key identifier for me as well. And, I am sorry, too, that you burned a hole in the piece. There has to be a better way...

 

This looks really small!

 

Janel

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The marbled interior dentin is clearly visible, and indicative of walrus ivory. No other material has this structure.

 

I agree... Its walrus ivory... thats been dyed Bob.

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Thank you for the information. I didn't do any damage to the piece that can be seen. The nail that I used was a brad and it didn't burn the piece. The spot I hit with the NSK tool was inside and I used a 1/2mm bit. Clive, The signiture dates from the 1830's, was the "dye job" something that would have been done when it was carved? Sorry to be so stupid about the material but I have never carved ivory in any form. The piece is 1 3/4" by 1 3/4" so it is a nice size.

Dick

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Its difficult to say with any degree of certainty Dick.. Most antique walrus pieces I've seen were not origanally dyed.. they develop natural deep yellow patina.. so why this one??... to give the impression of age perhaps?... to hide some later restoration job perhaps? I'd examine the piece carefully under magnification.. it might tell a story as to the "life" of the piece.

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Thanks Clive,

I looked at the piece with my engravers microscope and didn't find anything unusual. The wear on the bottom through the signature seems to be honest. Someone buffed the piece and put an unnaturally high polish on everything. There is grey "stuff" on the inside from the polishing compound. I paid $325.00 for the piece which I thought to be ivory and it turns out to be walrus ivory. I can't imagine someone carving a piece to fake out of real ivory and selling it for that price. Could be a good old piece that someone tried to "fix up". I did have a dealer offer me a profit on the piece so I am in good shape either way.

Thanks again for your input. I think I will stick to Japanese metal work which I know fairly well.

Dick

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a piece of old walrus ivory. In fact a very simply netsuke.

You can recognise the marbled interior very good on this piece.

And it also has a golden yellow/brown colour. Not deyed but an aging patina.

 

I bought this recently and I am thinking of carving something on it.

 

Ko

 

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