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With so many works of art expected to fall foul of the ivory ban announced by environment secretary Michael Gove on April 3, it is the so-called de minimis exemption that has formed the new battleground for the trade.

In addition to an apparent anomaly in the proposals – one that allows up to 20% ivory in musical instruments made before 1975 but only 10% of ivory in pre-1947 works of art – the suggested compliance procedure is being deemed impractical.

Each object that qualifies for the de minimis exemption will have to be registered on an online database for a fee. ATG understands the object needs to be registered with Animal and Plant Health Authority every time it is sold.

'Extraordinarily impractical'

In a letter to ATG, Paul Roberts, deputy chairman at Lyon and Turnbull, describes the de minimis exemption as an “extraordinarily impractical provision” and called for the “mobilisation of dealers, auctioneers and all other interested parties to speak directly to their own MPs across the country to try and head off this particular aspect of this ill-conceived piece of legislation”.

Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation, says BAMF plans to question the ruling that musical instruments should be treated differently to works of art.

Taken as a whole, the new law will allow for only narrow exemptions

In addition to items containing a small amount of ivory as part of a larger whole, the government will permit the sale of portrait miniatures painted on ivory and other ivory works of art that are at least 100 years old and deemed the “rarest and most important items of their type”.

For more on the ivory sales ban see ATG's questions and answers about the new law's implications for antique ivory and our Letters & Opinion page.

ATG’s guide to the UK Ivory Ban