US bans the trade in antique ivory

The FT reported on 8th March that the US antiques industry is up in arms about US proposed leglislation to ban American commercial trade in objects made of elephant ivory. They describe the laws as a “philistine wrecking act” which will have “a drastic impact on exhibitions, scholarship and the trade in antique masterpieces, while doing nothing to stop the slaughter of an endangered species.”

From February, the US no longer allows commercial imports of African ivory of any age, including antiques. The art world points out that antique ivories were often carved with virtuosity centuries ago and came from tusks that were gathered from elephant “cemeteries” and created when numbers were abundant.

The curators oppose the bans on two counts

1) Almost all the artifacts were made decades ago and thus the ban have little effect on the slaughter of elephants today.

2) The ban will hinder art historical and curatorial work, as well as the antiques market.

The industry points out the double standards of the legislation which will allow imports of “elephant sport-hunted trophies” at two per hunter per year.

Dealers fear the same legislation will be replicated in Europe, killing the trade completely. The ban coincides with reports that Prince William wants ivory antiques in the Royal Household destroyed. A spokesman for the Prince refused to confirm or deny this.

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