30th January 2020

Potential change in the law coming for those who own ivory

By Samantha Purssey, Cert CII
Account Executive
Ivory jewellery

A new Ivory Bill that will pass soon may have an impact on those who own ivory.

The Ivory Bill 2018 will ban the commercial use of ivory in the UK. It was expected to be passed in 2019 but this has not yet happened. The bill is a positive development in the global effort to combat elephant poaching and Aston Lark is pleased these efforts are being made.

As it stands, all ivory items made before 1947 can be bought and sold without any implications, though importers and exporters need a permit.

The new law proposes to ban all trade of ivory in the UK with the following exemptions, according to Gov.Uk:

  • Items with only a small amount of ivory. 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.
  • Portrait miniatures. A specific exemption for portrait miniatures – which were often painted on thin slivers of ivory – made before 1918.
  • Sales to and between accredited museums. This applies to museums accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, The Scottish Government or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or, for museums outside the UK, The International Council of Museums.
  • The rarest and most important items of their type. Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, and made prior to 1918. Such items will be subject to the advice of specialists at institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums.

If you own ivory or any items which contain ivory, it’s important to be aware of this new law and what it means for you.

There is no definitive answer when it comes to insuring your collection. However, some of our insurers will not cover newly purchased items of ivory unless you can prove the item falls within one of the exemptions above.

In addition, some insurers will no longer continue to insure items that are currently on your policy.  This is because if the new law is passed, non-exempt items of ivory will no longer have a market value as they will be illegal to buy or sell.  This does not mean it is illegal to own or bequeath ivory to another person.

It is important for you to understand the requirements and legalities behind the ownership of ivory. If you want to sell an item that is exempt from the ban, you will also need to register it with the Government’s Animal and Plant Health agency. 

If you have any questions or would like advice on insuring your ivory collection, please contact your account handler at Aston Lark, or call 020 8712 8017.