Near-total ban on antique ivory comes into force (UK)


Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette

Date Published

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The Ivory Act is now in force in the UK, bringing in a near-total ban on the sale of antique ivory.

It is now illegal to trade in most solid ivory objects. The law covers all items that are offered for sale (not just transactions) so websites and online listings should be updated.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is responsible for regulating the act. Since it launched its ivory digital service on February 24 there have been more than 700 applications for items that meet a narrow set of exemptions, Defra said.

Many auction houses and dealers have been using the system to register items that they plan to sell. The fee for registering is £20 per item or £50 for a group of objects (up to a maximum of 20 if they are being sold to the same buyer and meet the same exemption).

For the group registrations a form is available which can be obtained from APHA at: [email protected]

The five exemptions are:

— Pre-1947 items containing less than 10% ivory by volume.
— Pre-1975 musical instruments containing less than 20% ivory by volume.
— Pre-1918 portrait miniatures with a surface area of no more than 320 sq cm.
— Sales to, and hire agreements with, qualifying museums.
— Pre-1918 items with outstanding artistic, cultural or historical value.

However, applying to sell an antique (pre-1918) on the grounds it is of ‘outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value’ will be subject to a fee of £250, comprised of £20 for registration and £230 to cover the cost of advice provided by a committee of museum specialists.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a 28-day grace period will begin today (June 6) for transactions “that are part-completed”.