Update on UK Ivory Bill 2017-19

Following up on the continued situation for antique ivory sales in the UK. The Ivory Bill was introduced to Parliament on 23 May 2018. This has not yet been passed into law, and may be subject to amendments. However as this stands the bill is good news for musicians, as it stipulates a 20% de-minimis exemption for musical instruments made before 3 March 1975. This is sufficient to allow a bow with an ivory tip, frog and button to the adjuster to be exempt from the regulation and it also applies to ivory keyboards of pianos, or ivory collars on wind instruments. It also accounts for ivory elements that are sometimes found on violin and cellos such as nuts, ornaments on pegs and endpins.

When I responded to the Ivory Bill Consultation back in Winter 2017 as chairman of the British Violin Making Association it was very clear from my assessment of the situation that the numbers of bows that have tiny ivory components combined with the problems of travelling musicians would create a huge administrative burden on the associated government agencies, deflecting from the real task of preventing the trafficking of ivory taken from poached elephants. There is no premium associated with ivory in musical instrument, which was simply used traditionally as the most convenient material at a time when there were no ethical considerations to take into account, and therefore it’s continued presence within older bows and the like does not have any impact on the dangers to elephants of the continued trade. Overall the 20% de-minimis contributes to the conservation of Elephants because it allows agencies to focus their effort where it counts. Further to this, the bill includes an overall de-minimis exemption of 10% for objects made before 3 March 1947 containing small decorative elements of ivory.

The Bill documents are available from the House of Commons here: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/ivory/documents.html

The antiques trade are preparing to mount a judicial review of the bill. There are certainly various historical musical instruments made with more than 20% ivory content, which would become endangered if the bill were to go through as proposed.





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