Ivory has been used in the decorative arts for its beauty and versatility. However, it’s essential to note that due to concerns about the ethical and environmental implications of ivory trade, regulations have been put in place to restrict its use and trade in many parts of the world, including England.

Historical Uses of Ivory in Decorative Arts:

  1. Carvings and Sculptures: Ivory’s fine-grained and smooth texture made it an ideal material for intricate carvings and sculptures. Skilled artisans would create exquisite figurines, statuettes, and religious objects from ivory.
  2. Inlays and Ornaments: Ivory was often used as an inlay material in furniture, musical instruments, and decorative items. Its creamy white color and ability to take on intricate designs made it a favored choice for adding elegance to various objects.
  3. Jewelry: Ivory was crafted into jewelry pieces, including rings, bracelets, and pendants. Its unique appearance and durability made it desirable for both ornamental and functional uses.
  4. Netsuke: In Japan, ivory was commonly used to create small, detailed sculptures called netsuke. These miniature carvings were used as toggles to secure cords or sashes to a kimono, showcasing the skill of the artist and the beauty of the material.
  5. Piano Keys: Historically, piano keys were often made from ivory due to its smooth surface and ability to withstand frequent use. However, modern pianos now use synthetic materials as a more sustainable alternative.

Current Law in England: As of my last update in September 2021, the law in England regarding ivory has been tightened to protect elephants and other endangered species. The Ivory Act 2018, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, bans the commercial trade of almost all items containing ivory. There are exceptions for specific items that are considered to have significant historical, cultural, or artistic value and were made before 1947, as long as they meet certain criteria.

The ban is aimed at preventing the illegal ivory trade and its contribution to elephant poaching and habitat destruction. It demonstrates the UK’s commitment to combating the illegal wildlife trade and protecting endangered species.

Please note that laws and regulations can change, so it’s essential to check for any updates or amendments to the Ivory Act in England since my last update in 2021.


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