INSTRUMENTAL ROLE: Scott Davis, owner of the Rhode Island Antiques Mall, with a piano with ivory keys. New federal regulations scheduled to go into effect will ban the sale of anything with ivory less than 100 years old to protect endangered elephants.
Rhode Island Antiques Mall owner Scott Davis has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of reasons to be closely monitoring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s development of new restrictions on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory.
They include countless items with inlays – or even slivers – of ivory on display in his shop, sold through his eBay business and in the inventory of more than 200 dealers in the Pawtucket antiques mall.
“Ivory was used in canes, tea sets, jewelry boxes and almost any item that was considered to be a luxury item in the Victorian period,” said Davis.
Antique dealers fear the new and evolving restrictions on buying and selling items with ivory will render a portion of their investments worthless, if pieces can’t be sold, said Davis.
The word from the Fish and Wildlife Service is that some rules are in place, but not all is set in stone.
“Before Feb. 25, 2014, the import of antiques with elephant ivory was allowed,” Craig Hoover, chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch, told Providence Business News on May 5. “Since then, all commercial imports of African elephant ivory are prohibited, regardless of age.”
Exemptions exist, however, for certain musical instruments imported for performances, museum specimens and inheritances or household moves when specific conditions are met, said Hoover.
“All of this uproar is somewhat premature, because we haven’t fully changed the rules yet,” he added. “For example, we haven’t amended our regulations governing what you can do with ivory in the U.S. yet. Before we do, we will publish proposed rules and give the public an opportunity to provide input.”
So it’s not clear yet how antique dealers will be affected, he said.