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Dealer body BADA said it is telling its members that “provided the six-month period referred to in the ivory bill’s Explanatory Notes is adhered to, its restrictions are not expected to come into effect any earlier than the second half of April 2019, possibly later”.

ATG understands that several auction houses drew up contingency plans to pull items from sales this autumn if the law had come into force by then, as was expected.

Alexandra Aguilar, Japanese works of art specialist at Woolley & Wallis’ Asian department, said the auction house had been prepared to change plans but will now continue to sell ivory until the law change next year.

She said: “The law coming into force a few months later than expected gives me some hope. We should keep on fighting to get our voices heard.”

Guy Schooling, chairman at auction house Sworders, said: “The whole thing is a farce. We would stop selling items with ivory immediately if we thought it would save elephants and stop poaching but it won’t. We will continue selling antique items containing ivory legally until the law changes. We have been selling quite a lot from consignors across the UK who have wanted to sell their heirlooms and collections before the ban.”

Fall in value

Schooling added that ivory items “have been making between a third and half of what they would have made before the ban was announced. Prices will continue to fall.”

Asian art dealer and netsuke specialist Max Rutherston said he was “relieved, as I was fully prepared for the ban to come in before the end of this year. It gives me a few months of additional ivory trading which I shall use well.

He added: “I have a foreign buyer lined up to buy any of my ivory stock that remains in March. Inevitably it will be at a fire sale price, but I will write the considerable loss off against tax and get some sort of satisfaction from depriving a stupid regime of the revenue it would have derived had it not embarked on an illogical and culturally ignorant programme.”

However not all of the trade are opposed to the ban.

Nick Carter, auctioneer at Lots Road Auctions said: “From our point of view the ban will work. Antique ivory is part of the problem of fuelling demand for ivory in China. We don’t sell worked ivory pieces.” He said furniture with inlays made of ivory should be replaced with plastic.

The government will update on the ivory bill at this week’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London on October 11-12. Environment minister Michael Gove will also reveal details of the efforts of the Ivory Alliance 2024, formed to “bring countries together to close ivory markets and improve enforcement”.