So your latest model Ferrari is parked in a prominent spot outside the top five-star hotel in the capital. You are meeting friends for a drink and since it is pleasantly warm you wear a short sleeve shirt so there is no way they can miss the golden Rolex on your left wrist – they will know it is the real thing.
But what about your right arm? Maybe a rhino horn bangle worth the same as the wrist watch (about U$ 15 000) would make for a good conversation piece, not yet on the must have list of most of your friends.
The feeling when travelling through the key urban centers of Vietnam and China is that wealth is only really accepted when it can be presented in a conspicuous way. Status symbols and lifestyle products are what it is all about when competing for social status, and rhino horn jewelry and ivory have become part of this demand characteristic.
We have now visited a household which also serves as a store and workshop on three different occasions. It is about an hours drive from the Hanoi City Center. On all three occasions we saw and documented with hidden camera large amounts of raw and semi worked ivory including end product souvenir and jewelry items as well as rhino horn products.
Even on our first visit, in 2011, we were offered a rhino horn prayer bead bracelet. We watched the demonstration by the owner shining a torch light through one of the beads and explaining how we could ensure it was the genuine article.
Pushing open a door in the basement of the house we entered a bedroom with a wide range of cut up ivory pieces in cardboard boxes. Some of the ivory was already worked into finished bracelets. Since we had arrived during a local holiday the workshop upstairs was closed, however we managed to film a group of Chinese tourists being brought in by their tour guide buying a number of chop stick sets as well as bracelets.
All items were carefully measured with calipers which together with a digital scale were part of the paraphernalia used in each such sales transaction. When we asked to see some raw rhino horn an Iphone containing images of various horns was pushed into our hands. - READ MORE