President Barack Obama is about to issue an executive order extending legislation that has been in place for some 25 years which prohibits the purchase, sale and importation of ivory from African elephants that have been recently killed. This executive order would also make it illegal to buy, sell and import antique ivory that had been harvested from elephants killed since 1914. Indeed any ivory that is 100 years old or less.
What this means in real terms is that any antique that is made from ivory or includes ivory will not be able to be purchased or sold. This will adversely impact not only on antique dealers but also collectors and private owners, musical instrument sellers and of course will include such items as ivory chess sets, antique silver teapots with ivory set into the handles, pianos (with ivory keys), ancient mah-jong sets and a whole host of other items that are commonly seen in the antiques industry worldwide.
Those calling for the ban are endangered species activists and who can deny the good work that they do? But not only do they want to see the extension of existing legislation, they also want all items that are confiscated with antique carved ivory to be destroyed. One might assume that even if this was a reasonable proposal that at least these items could be placed in a museum but nothing less than total destruction will suffice for them; although, items that are already owned by museums will remain.
If all of this was not bad enough, anyone selling antique ivory or items containing it will have to prove that the ivory is over 100 years old which is virtually impossible to do. Certificates were rarely issued hundreds of years ago since no one needed them. It is also very difficult to prove the age of ivory. Hence all antique dealers with stock containing ivory and antique ivory dealers are about to be made criminals overnight!
This type of ban makes no logical sense, since how will banning the sale of these antique items prevent elephants being killed? Indeed it could have quite the reverse effect since the value of the antiques containing ivory is likely to increase as trading is driven underground and because of that it could lead to even more elephants being killed as a whole new industry of falsifying documents develops certificating all ivory as being more than 100 years old.
It has to be hoped that David Cameron will not copy Mr Obama in what appears to be a lack of common sense and certainly something that has not been completely thought through.
At Warners, we have four antique silver teapots dating from 1807 to 1835 containing various elements of ivory such as ivory insulators and finials, features that were quite normal in silver teapots of this age. If you would like to see our full range of antique silver teapots click here
And do let us know your comments on what you think about this new legislation.