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The Ivory Act

ivory act


All of us at Constantine Cannon fully endorse the fight against the trade in modern ivory and elephant poaching. However, once in force, the Ivory Act 2018 will restrict the purchase, sale and collecting of certain significantly important objects created in centuries past as expressions of ancient cultures.  In anticipation of these restrictions, it is expected that a non-negligible number of objects will be transported out of the country, thereby depriving various actors, including collectors, researchers and art market participants, of the presence of invaluable items from a cultural standpoint.

Practical guidance and key documents

The implementation of the Act has been delayed by more than two years already, however as the Government issued its draft guidance on implementation measures in March 2021, as part of its public consultation, the Act is expected to come into force in summer 2021. Dealers and collectors who have not already put steps in place to mitigate the impact of the Act or to understand the complexities of its application and what this means internationally, must act now. We have set out further guidance and information to those specifically interested in this topic below, plus a Step by Step guide as to how to audit your collection now that the draft guidance has been released. However, the trade and cross-border movements of antique ivory are an immensely complex topic and given that violating such legislation carries criminal penalties, it must not be taken lightly. You should seek the advice of specialists, particularly when considering the extra territorial application of the Act and moving your stock or collections abroad.

We represent a wide variety of clients and the Act is not relevant to all of them. If you would like to hear more on the practicalities of the restrictions once in force, or discuss the steps you can take to mitigate the impact of the Act on your collection or business, please contact us at:


UK Ivory Consultation

Further guidance on the interpretation of certain key provisions of the Act has long been expected from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). This guidance is anticipated to clarify, amongst other things, which items qualify for the exemption for objects ‘of outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value’. On 9 March 2021, DEFRA released a consultation seeking the views of interested parties on its proposals for the implementation of the Act, including the long-awaited proposed guidance. The consultation, which can be accessed via the link below, closed on 4 May 2021.

Whilst there has been a long lead in time since the Ivory Act was announced, this is the first time dealers and collectors will have been able to consider whether their objects might qualify as “rare and important” as previously they could only speculate. As the guidance is very narrow and the £250 fee is not insignificant, dealers and collectors should take the time they have left to audit their collection against the proposed guidance and decide which items they intend to risk leaving in the UK, in the hope of obtaining a certificate.

Consultation on the implementation of the Ivory Act

EU Ivory Consultations

At the European Union level, a consultation by the Environment and Trade Departments of the European Commission in 2017 aimed to compile information and views on the extent, structure and main features of legal and illegal trade in ivory in and from the EU, as well as on the priorities that the EU should follow in its approach against ivory trafficking. The history of, and latest updates on, the steps taken by the European Union to close the EU ivory market can be found in this section.

European Commission Consultations