There is so much more in determining value of a carving than just the material itself. To begin with, there is the artistry that may have been employed in the use of the material, perhaps swirls of color integrated into the design and its overall attractiveness. There is added value if more than one material has been used, maybe the eyes in an animal or beak of a bird or something like watermelon tourmaline in an eagle in which the red has been used as the head, the white as the collar and the green as the body. A very important element would be the amount of detail and quality of the polish in the piece. Although not as important, the base may be the matrix of the gem material and consideration to its beauty and the size ratio of it to the carving itself. Age may not be of significance, particularly in ivory unless there is provenance, i.e., documented authentication of it being of the Ming Dynasty.
Most of the finest gem carvings in the world have been created in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. In recent times, the Brazilians have improved their quality to compete with the Germans and are far less expensive. Hong Kong is a strong contributor to the carving arena as well. The Italians in Naples have a renowned stature in the carving of coral and cameos. The more important cameos are those made from hard gemstones, which are considerably more valuable.
Cos Altobelli, is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood, for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser, from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Prime Time Live” several times. Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.