The UK Ivory Act
The Ivory Act came into enforcement on 6th June, 2022. It is now illegal to trade in any items containing elephant ivory, unless you apply for and receive exemption. Any breach of the Act could in result in a fine of £250,000 and / or up to five years imprisonment.
Monday 6th June was Ivory Day when the UK Ivory Act, passed in 2018, finally came into enforcement. It's been a long road, but we finally now have the information we need to understand the implications for the piano trade.
Is Your Instrument Exempt?
The good news is there is an exemption for musical instruments made before 1975 with less than 20% Ivory, by material volume.
Most pianos will meet that criteria.
If the instrument was made from 1975 onwards and contains any ivory, no matter how small the amount, it can't be traded as it is and there is no exemption. Making the instrument legal for any trading will require any Ivory content to be replaced with a synthetic alternative.
While many piano makers had predominately moved to synthetic key coverings by 1975, including Steinway, some European makers continued to use Ivory to some extent until SITES finally came into force in 1989. How you date the instrument is crucial and needs to be included in your application.
An identifying mark or serial number or assessment by an expert or carbon dating is acceptable.
This means that until the instrument is registered it is illegal to:
1. Buy or sell the instrument.
2. Part exchange the instrument.
3. Offer your instrument for sale or hire.
4. Export or import a piano.
5. Send your piano to an auction.
6. I am yet to establish if this rule will apply for pianos which are to be dumped.
An instrument can be registered at:
How can I tell if I have ivory keys?
Look to see if your keys have a slight join in the middle, just below where the black key starts.
If it does, you will only need an exemption certificate if you decide to dispose of your piano.
Peter Tryon FMCM., FASC., ARCM., ALCM., AVCM., Cert Ed.
40+ years experience. Regular visits across the county plus parts of Norfolk, Essex, Warwickshire and Scotland (Dumfries area). Tuner for the National Trust, Cambridge University, Forestry Commission outdoor concerts, Suffolk County Council schools, many private schools, piano teachers, etc.
Fully enhanced CRB check and fully insured with £5,000,000 public liability.