Main content


Icon Supports Ivory Ban, Promotes Accredited Conservators Exemption

In December 2017 Icon responded to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) consultation on the ban of ivory sales in the UK.

The government proposed a ban on all ivory sales to bring an end to the horrific trade that is leading to the extinction of one of the world’s most iconic species. The ban would prevent anyone in the UK from buying, selling, importing or exporting ivory for sale (regardless of age), unless it falls under one of four exemption categories.

As conservators, Icon wholeheartedly supports elephant conservation efforts. In our response, we expressed our agreement with the government’s proposed ban to halt sales that contribute either directly or indirectly to the poaching of elephants.

However, the conservation of the elephant and items of cultural significance containing ivory do not need to be mutually exclusive. Consequently, Icon welcomed the ban’s proposed exemptions to allow the continued sale of items, which contain a small percentage of ivory, items of artistic, cultural and historic significance, and of ivory to and between museums.

Icon advocated for a further exemption to the ban taking into consideration the conservation and restoration needs of historical items of cultural, artistic or historic value containing ivory. Conservators may in some cases require old, yet culturally and historically insignificant, ivory in order to preserve important items containing ivory, such as furniture, decorative objects, books, jewellery, clocks and musical instruments.

We urged DEFRA to consider an exemption for the supply of ivory through the UK’s existing confiscated stock to Icon-Accredited conservators specialising in the conservation and restoration of objects containing ivory of artistic, cultural or historic value. This could be considered in exceptional cases, when the use of substitute materials had been assessed and deemed inappropriate.

DEFRA received over 60,000 responses to its consultation. We look forward to reading the results and seeing legislation in place that protects not only the future of our elephants but also our cultural heritage. 

ImageBenin Ivory © Trustees of the British Museum, used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


Find out more about Icon's Policy and Advocacy here.


You must be logged in to comment,


The views expressed in these comments are the views of the individual and do not reflect the views of The Institute of Conservation. Any comments containing inappropriate language or copyright material will be removed.

Twitter feed Follow us


View all

2018 ICON Book & Paper Group AGM live recording


The Anna Plowden Trust - a brief introduction


Plowden Scholar Puneeta Sharma 2013: Assistant Drawings Conservator, Royal Collection Trust


Focus on Continuing Professional Development grants: the Scottish Conservation Studio


Plowden Scholar 2002 Tom Küpper: Head of Glazing, Lincoln Cathedral


Water Washing Stone War Memorials