By Kevin Heath
A Cornish auction house has handed over a private collection of ivory pieces following a visit by the Devon and Cornwall Police and National Wildlife Crime Unit. The company was unsure of the history of all the pieces of ivory so decided to play it safe and handed over the collection to the police.
The ivory collection was at the auction house following the death of the owner. Without the evidence that the pieces met the requirements for a legal sale the auctioneers opted to withdraw the sale of the pieces and gave possession to the police.
While the pieces looked worked ivory and antique without the proper providence of the ivory the auctioneers were unable to confirm if the pieces were modern works that had been treated to look antique.
The sale and commercial use of elephant ivory is prohibited under the provisions of the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. However there are certain exemptions, one of which relates to the sale of ‘antique’ ivory, which means that elephant ivory that was significantly altered from its raw state for ‘jewellery, adornment, musical instrument, art or utility’. To meet the criteria for the exemption, the ‘working’, which in this case was carving, has to have taken place prior to 3rd March 1947.
The auction house did not want to risk breaching the law and took the responsible decision to voluntarily hand the collection to the Police. A spokes person for the Police and NWCU said, “The potential value of this collection was not insignificant. It is reassuring to see this responsible trader not wanting to profit before breaking the law.”
The maximum sentence for the prohibited sale of elephant ivory is 5 years.