Legal ivory: caveats?

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Bill Hicklin
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Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Bill Hicklin »

I inherited a chunk of pre-CITES elephant tusk my father brought back from SE Asia in the Fifties or early Sixties. It's legal for me to own it, as long as I don't sell it; and I've used bits of it for nuts and saddles on my own guitars, which rarely even leave the house.

But- what if I build a guitar as a gift for a cousin a cousin, who lives in another state? What warnings and/or legal formalities would be involved?

Mario Proulx
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Mario Proulx »

I may be wrong, but it's my understanding that the moment you re-work antique ivory, it's considered to be new ivory.

Ron Belanger
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Ron Belanger »

Mario is correct

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Unless the Lacey act has changed things, I believe elephant ivory that is "preban" (1989) is still legal to buy and sell across state lines. You might inquire at the Boone Trading Co. for the particulars on these laws as ivories are what they deal in.
If you do use it make sure your cousin is aware that he can't cross the border with it.

Ron Belanger
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Ron Belanger »

It is legal to buy preban ivory, but once you rework it it is considered new.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Boone trading company cuts and sells African elephant ivory in the United States. Not arguing the ethics of it, only the legality.

Bill Hicklin
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Bill Hicklin »

Ron and Mario: is that US law, or Canadian? My (non-detailed) understanding of US law is that it applies only to the date the material was imported, not worked.

Mario Proulx
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Mario Proulx »

My understanding is that it's a CITES law, which means the whole world.

Bill Hicklin
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Bill Hicklin »

"My understanding is that it's a CITES law, which means the whole world"

No, CITES only applies to import/export across international borders, not domestic trade. That's a matter for national laws.

If that were the case then guitars made from old stock Brazilian Rozewood (also an Appendix I CITES species) would also be banned.

Mario Proulx
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Mario Proulx »

Hmm, methinks you may be correct!

At any rate, if I had a big tusk and wanted to cut it up, I'd ask a lawyer first....

Honest!

Bill Hicklin
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Bill Hicklin »

Scary part, Mario, is that I am a lawyer, and I don't know! I think I will contact Boone, or even write the Fish & Wildlife Service. Or better yet, just use bone on my cousin's axe.

Ron Belanger
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Ron Belanger »

The relevant details are outline in Section 2 of the following document

"CITES, LACEY ACT, ESA, USFWS AND CUSTOMS REGULATION OF WOOD, SHELL, BONE, IVORY, FOSSIL IVORY, AND FINISHED ITEMS (SUCH AS GUITARS) WHICH CONTAIN ANY OF THESE OR OTHER WILDLIFE OR PLANT PRODUCTS
By Chuck Erikson, the Duke of Pearl, April, 2011"

If you email Chuck he will send you the full document. Chuck Erikson [E-mail removed by staff - e-mail or PM Ron for the address]

You are correct about Brazilian Rosewood, however most ivories and tortoise shell cannot be reworked.
Last edited by Jim McConkey on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ron Belanger
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Ron Belanger »

Or I can send it to you. Send me an email.

Bill Hicklin
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Bill Hicklin »

Thanks, Ron. Holy crap! It appears I broke the law simply by not filing paperwork for the woodcarvings I bought in Germany last fall! (Made from wholly non-endangered linden, but the law requires applications for *every* item made from plant or animal parts; there are NO 'de minimis' or 'household effects' exceptions. Apparently I needed to file certification from the German government that my knicknacks were in compliance with their laws).
Moreover, "Since May 1, 2010, when filling out import forms and documents APHIS has been requiring that exact quantities for each species of material in a shipment must be tallied and listed separately using only standardized metric units: kg, m, m2, m3. For a guitar, this means calculating exactly how much mahogany is in the neck and kerfing; how much ebony in the fingerboard, bridge, and heelcap; how much rosewood in back, sides, and peghead veneer; how much maple in the bindings; how much of each species of shell used in the inlays. The actual cost for each material must also be declared." Jesus, Mary and St Joseph!

Nonetheless, CITES confines its ambit to import/export matters, and not inter- or intra-state movement. "The federal legality of using some unpapered Lacey or CITES Appendix I materials (woods and ivories, but not tortoiseshell) varies depending on whether they stay within the U.S. or move across the international border. As long as these materials were not imported in violation of CITES or obtained illegally they can be freely bought, sold, and used domestically – since CITES applies only to international trade there are no CITES-related requirements for legally acquired CITES-listed species (like Brazilian rosewood) when the activity is solely domestic."

But then, while "African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) ivory cannot be imported, bought, or sold across U.S. borders or internationally, but it is legal to own, buy, sell or ship within the United States with no permits or registration requirements," however, "Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) is listed as endangered in the U.S. and by CITES, so cannot be traded either internationally or interstate within the U.S."

Apparently the re-manufacture rule cited above DOES apply, but under the Endangered Species Act, not CITES: "For materials and products made from antique or pre-Convention ESA-listed species, as soon as one of these items is substantially modified or used to make a new product, its exempt status instantly disappears. Unfortunately, even with legitimate documentation the age of the original item does not automatically carry over to the use of its material in another one. Instead, the new article assumes the date of its recent remanufacture, thus now making it post-ban and illegal to sell or to import or export" This therefore DOES apply to Asian elephant (listed as Endangered by the US Govt) but not African elephant, hippo or Brazilian rosewood (CITES, but not US-listed Endangered).

Now, is a gift "commerce?"

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I wonder how you tell African elephant ivory from Asian elephant ivory when it's cut in small pieces?

Stephen Bacon
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Stephen Bacon »

You can't, though I was taught Asian ivory was more opaque.

Michael Lewis
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Michael Lewis »

I believe the angles of the cross hatching differ between species, so species can be identified by this pattern. This is visible on end grain ivory.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Michael,
I know the cross hatching angles differ between mammoth and elephant. Do they also differ between African and Asian elephant?

Michael Lewis
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Michael Lewis »

Sorry to get back so late. Too many other things to see and do, but I'm here now. I don't know enough about the differences between the African and Asian elephant patterns, perhaps Chuck Erickson could shed more light on the Schreger lines of those pachyderms.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Legal ivory: caveats?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Michael,
After doing some reading on the net about Schreger lines it appears there is a fair amount of variation between individual animals, and in a few cases even overlap from mammoth to elephant. It seems like there are some subtle differences between African and Asian elephant ivory, but the "non-expert" would have difficulty distinguishing between them.

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