The Ivory Page

The long-awaited ban on the sale of ivory in the UK will be announced today, 3rd April.  This is amoungst the toughest in the world, and will prohibit all sales with certain narrow exemptions.  


Importantly for us, the sale of musical instruments made before 1975 and containing less than 25% ivory will be allowed.  The ban relates to all sales including exports.  


The wording of the regulations relating to exemptions is:

  • Items comprised of less than 10% ivory (by volume) and made before 1947.
  • Musical instruments made before 1975 and comprised of less than 20% ivory.
  • Rare or important items, at least 100 years old, will be assessed by specialist institutions before exemption permits are issued.
  • There will be specific exemptions for portrait miniatures painted on thin ivory bases and for commercial activity between accredited museums

So this beautiful Hitchcock is safe.


We should be aware, though, that there is no exemption for the use of old, reclaimed ivory on new-build instruments.  It will also be illegal to sell ivory keytops taken from old pianos.

This grand piano has sharps with ivory tops taken from a nineteenth-century upright piano, but even if the owner could prove that, he would not be able to sell it, as the piano was made in 2008.  So the builder will soon be making new Elforyn tops for the sharps.  I will be saying more about experience with ivory alternatives on this page soon.

It is important that we do all we can to protect the elephants tht are alive now, and see an end to the terrible ivory poaching trade.  I feel that the exemptions permitted under this new law are entirely reasonable, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who worked for them, especially Séan and Richard of Piano Auctions Limited.  Thanks also to all those who took part in the consultation, and expressed support for these exemptions.

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© David Hackett