Beg your MP to exempt old bows from ivory ban

Beg your MP to exempt old bows from ivory ban


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2019

Sarah Buchanan of the Amati auction house has posted the following petition to the UK Parliament:

Musicians, music shops & auction houses are going to be severely affected by a new requirement to register bows of stringed instruments under the Ivory Act. The practicalities of doing so, along with the cost will make it very difficult – and in some cases impossible – to buy and sell antique bows.

We fully support the ethics behind this act – endangered species and ecosystems must be protected. But these legitimate goals cannot be achieved by clamping down on antique instruments & bows. Musicians now face prosecution if they buy or sell a bow that doesn’t conform to the expected registration. Many professional instrument bows will be left worthless and untradeable. This petition applauds the Ivory Act principles, but just asks for this one practicality to be changed for it to be workable.

Sign here.



  • I think she needs to explain more about why the registration requirement is impossible to accommodate.

    I’ll note that there is no ivory in that picture. The frog is ebony.

    • Bill says:

      Bow tips are usually covered with ivory, even if the frog is most typically another material. Ivory frogs are rare, but the ivory plates at the tip are the most common material on anything but student or perhaps composite bows.

      I don’t know what this ivory ban requires, not being a UK denizen, but the others I have seen have had restrictions which seem not particularly unreasonable to the casual observer, but in reality are quite difficult to meet for someone who purchased the bow in question before the regulations were enacted.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        The bill is online. I scanned it. Pre-1975 instruments, including bows, are specifically exempted from the ban. But they must be registered. I couldn’t find the cost of registration. This seems like a good solution to me. As I understand the CITES rules, registering these instruments doesn’t provide coverage for crossing international borders. Maybe I’ve got it wrong, however.

  • V.Lind says:

    I know a Canadian orchestra that instructed their string players to make sure their bows had neither ivory nor any other restricted material (including certain woods, considered at risk) in their make-up before touring China. The laws there are apparently very severe on importation of endangered or restricted materials. They were all madly getting used to new ones for weeks before the tour.

    Good luck with the petition — though I have my doubts as to who will spare it a thought in these rather troubled times. Hope there is a musical MP who can spearhead attention to the problem.

    Or else the stuff could just be registered…the story is not very clear. Why is this such a problem? Why need it be a massive expense?

  • John Greenwood says:

    I’m a professional bowmaker working in the United States. I use 10,000 year old MAMMOTH IVORY on my bow tips. Practically all other reponsible modern American makers do too.

    A viable alternative is using metal for the tip, but this material is generally denser and can often make the bow unacceptably “tip heavy.” Plastic and resin materials are available, but these do not have the aesthetic richness of the natural material.

    Regarding bow tips, I think that well-intentioned conservationists are pursuing a misguided course that will, in practice, do practically nothing to protect the modern elephant.