Netsuke started out as a simple button like toggle used to attach a cord to a sash on a traditional Japanese garment, the kimono. On the other side of the cord lay a beautiful box or pouch used to carry personal items. These simple attachments became more and more intricate and became an art form all on its own becoming more of an adornment than a functional item. Netsuke can be found in use from the early 17th century to the second half of the 19th century. Once the Japanese took to wearing Western clothing during the Meiji period, netsuke disappeared as an item of daily use. This however, did not decrease ivory netsuke prices nor the value of netsuke crafted from other materials.
Netsuke figures can range from animals to people to inanimate objects. Despite losing its functional purpose Netsuke figures have continued being created, even today as a commodity to be exported to the west and to be sold as souvenirs. These netsuke figures became and continue to be a specimen of extremely skillful craftsmanship and an integral part of Japanese culture. Much like antique netsuke, contemporary netsuke figures are also extremely valuable. The fifty to hundred professional artists worldwide still produce netsuke of high quality.
Antique netsuke as well as contemporary Netsuke were crafted from a wide variety of materials. The most commonly used materials were ivory and wood. Wood netsuke figures can be carved from a variety of wooden materials. Besides ivory and wood other materials that are used are bone, horn, shell, amber, soapstone and ceramic. Ιvory netsuke prices are determined by the quality as well as antiquity.
Originally netsuke were simple items without special carvings, as they slowly became a status symbol and were used to compliment an outfit, more and more importance was placed on the carvings and the subjects used. As most owned more than one netsuke, the more impressive the carving the higher the ivory netsuke prices. Animals, especially the 12 animals of the Asian zodiac were rather popular. Mythological, heroic and scenes from everyday’s life can also be found carved into antique netsuke.
The quality of carving, originality and the subject are the most determining factors when it comes to ivory netsuke prices.