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New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:13 am
by Richard

On 21 September this year, there will be new legislation introduced in the UK banning the sale of all ivory products. The ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail and the item in question will be destroyed.

Exemptions are as follows:

• Items with only a small amount of ivory in them. Such items must be comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume and have been made prior to 1947.

• Musical instruments. These must have an ivory content of less than 20% and have been made prior to 1975 (when Asian elephants were added to CITES).

• Rarest and most important items of their type. Such items must be at least 100 years old and their rarity and importance will be assessed by specialist institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums before exemption permits are issued. In addition, there will be a specific exemption for portrait miniatures painted on thin slivers of ivory and which are at least 100 years old.

• Museums. Commercial activities to, and between, museums which are accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, Museums and Galleries Scotland or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or the International Council of Museums for museums outside the UK.

So as far as sword collectors are concerned (if you want to sell an item containing ivory) you must be able to show:

1 - that your sword contains less than 10% ivory (by volume) and this must be back-up by a CITES certificate, or

2 - that it is one of the 'rarest and most important' of its type as assessed by an accredited body.

I have no idea at the moment as to how one obtains a CITES certificate or what the cost will be - I have heard various figures between £60 and £250 per item. I also have no idea about the cost and how certification by an accredited body will be administered.

However, thinking about the 10% rule, I have carried out an measurement exercise on two of my swords to assess the percentage ivory by volume. I did this by calculating the volume of all components in cubic millimetres (I was trained as a quantity surveyor ...) and although I cannot say it is 100% accurate, I believe that it does represent a reasonable estimation that I can justify. The two swords I measured were a 3rd Light Dragoons mameluke made c. 1818 by Prosser and a Georgian presentation sabre dating from 1814 (photos below). The results were:

3LD mameluke (two piece ivory grip plates) - 7.9850% ivory

Georgian presentation sabre (solid ivory grip) - 9.0740% ivory

Whilst I'm sure that everyone will agree 100% that elephants need to be protected and that ivory poaching is totally abhorrent, I find it difficult to fathom how destroying skilfully made antiques incorporating long dead ivory will help the poor old pachyderms.

I'll update when further information is known.


PS, I imagine collectors of naval dirks are worried ...

Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:59 pm
by Chris A
This is great work by Richard as it looks as if Georgian swords with ivory grips will be allowed to survive. The alternative would be to remove the ivory grips and have replacements made. Perhaps compute 3D printing may be able to produce something decent but who wants to dismantle their swords ?
Apart from not knowing the cost of the self certification it has not been made clear if once a certificate has been issued it stays with the object or if one is required every time it changes hands. I can see many “under the counter” deals taking place, especially on lower value items and between collectors. This Act has had no more serious thought put into it than Brexit and, as Richard says, it will not save a single elephant.


Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:09 pm
by Will
The legislation could still strip swords of ivory if the owner is not vigilant with a sale. Just another hurdle for collectors and forces sales underground. Some African countries charge large sums to hunt elephant and the proceeds go to protection and conservation of them as they are a renewable resource.

Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:33 pm
by Chris A
When this Bill was going through Parliament I received an email from a sword collector friend in South Africa. It makes interesting (and amusing ) reading and shows how stupid this whole thing is.

“I think I did tell you previously about an 1816 15th Hussars mameluke hilted scimitar I bought in San Francisco for about $600. The auction house' shippers wanted $2200 to obtain a CITES permit for it, and to post it to me in South Africa. I got them to have the ivory panels removed (and shipped it for $40). I explained that I have a farmer friend on the "other side of the big river near me" (the Limpopo), and that he is quite prepared to shoot an elephant so that I could replace the now cast off ivories. Indeed, if the colour of the shot elephant's ivory is not similar to the original, he will happily shoot another; and if its ivory grain is not similar, we will kill a younger elephant.That makes three. In his area elephants are equivalent to rodents. They have not been culled and have decimated the riverine forest, strip-barking trees, destroying the saplings, and even pushing down iconic 300 year old Baobab trees. Every other species of animal and bird is negatively affected by the devastation wreaked by this unmitigated population explosion of elephantine mass. So, three to my mameluke is perfectly fine. Though none would have died had it not been for the good work of CITES.
Of course, CITES and the 80,000 do-gooders from Hyde Park have the three elephants' blood on their hands, and have trashed the raison d'être of the original 1816 elephant whose ivories have been binned and who has died in vain without even the slightest monument to his existance (he may even have died of old age - as many elephants actually do).”

Food for thought


Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:06 pm
by Will
Politics and common sense are not compatible and it's a global epidemic. Frustrating having to maneuver around the fools and not foreseeable to change any time soon.. ..

Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:38 pm
by Bryce
So something like this is in big trouble. I hope this new legislation doesn't travel down under.

Re: New UK legislation on ivory sales

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:48 am
by Will
I have this but never decided what to do with it or make something from it.