A court claim from the Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (Fact) failed Tuesday to compel the British High Court to make exceptions to a total ivory ban in the U.K.
The U.K.'s 2018 Ivory Act is set to cease trade in ivory pieces of all ages with a few artistic exemptions, notes the Guardian.
Conservationists have long raised the alarm that species will be decimated for their ivory, noting that an estimated 55 African elephants are poached every day. David Cowdrey, the head of policy and campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “We are delighted to hear that the high court has rejected the antiques lobby’s bid to overturn the Ivory Act. It is a fantastic day for elephants, and for everyone that has fought so hard to make the UK’s ivory ban one of the toughest in the world.”
Antiques dealers argued that the Ivory Act violated the European convention on human rights by interfering with individuals’ property rights. The trade for some historical pieces, not incorporating modern poacher's plunder, would be criminal in the U.K.
The prospect of much stricter regulations on the sale of ivory have started to have a major impact at U.K. auctions, according to Surrey auctioneer Chris Ewbank.
Well aware that this could be the case when he accepted a distinguished collection of okimono and netsuke for his Japanese & Asian works of art sale in September, Ewbank took the consignment of hundreds of pieces on the basis that he would be able to re-offer them at much-reduced estimates if they failed to sell.
“The collection includes notable pieces, the best of which would have ordinarily commanded a decent five-figure sum, but the looming change in the law decimated sell-through rates, leaving hundreds unsold,” he said.
“Ivory okimono were particularly badly affected, while netsuke fared somewhat better, but when you consider the quality of what was on offer, the prospect of never being able to sell these pieces in the future was clearly the dominating factor at play.”
Specialist James Hammond re-catalogued the offerings for Ewbank Auctions Asian Art sale on November 7 with estimates at less than a quarter of what they were in September, and the sale results varied.
“It’s a disappointing outcome for the consignor, but the cause of this downturn is clearly out of our hands,” said Ewbank.