With the current global attention on the long list of endangered species, both in the animal and plant world the traditional parts that once adorned our bows of the violin family have fallen into a class of restricted items and now face seizure at border crossings under international law knows as CITES. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Lets list them
For centuries the head of bows often have a faceplate made of ivory. It was relatively cheap, durable and a good source of protection for delicate heads. Often frogs were also made of ivory as well as the buttons on the screw.
The elephant is now on the CITES list.
Once harvested for its meat, oil and bone, whales produced parts for ladies corsets, strips of their jaw bone, both in gold and black color was wound around the bow to serve as a grip. While corsets still exist occasionally, the ribs are now of plastic and the bow grips have a somewhat realistic whalebone imitation made of nylon.
The whale is now on the CITES list.
Much sought after sea turtles found in the warm waters around South America, their shells made combs, jewel boxes and, of course, frogs for bows as far back as the mid-1700's. They were eaten by indigenous tribes and large shells were at times used as shields in time of war. The tortoise shell frog would add great value to a bow and bow makers learned to fuse a number of layers together to reach the required thickness.
The tortoise is now on the CITES list.
The most sought-after pearl shell to decorate the slides and pearl eyes of the bow frog is the Black Abalone shell found on the coasts of France and California. This shell held a delicacy of meat and at one time, during the 1960s, one location on the coast of British Columbia actually had an Abalone burger stand. The population was nearly annihilated.
The Abalone is now on the CITES list.
The international bow made in my shop has only precious metal used as the faceplate, either sterling silver of gold. Whalebone wrap is now replaced with either French silk, nylon "whalebone" wrap or wire winding in silver or gold. Tortoise shell as a frog is now replaced with Bison horn, which can range in color from near white to flamed and even black. Very durable, smooth and not susceptible to cracking. In place of Abalone I now use synthetic opal. A very beautiful man-made very hard plate of highly flamed opal particles.