New guidance from the European Commission has significantly tightened CITES rules, effectively banning the sale of a far wider range of antiques linked to endangered species.
The changes, introduced quietly in May
without trade bodies being alerted, come under new guidance issued
to CITES Management Authorities on the application of the "worked
specimens" derogation. This has traditionally exempted most
antiques from controls on the trade in endangered species.
More than a month after the changes were
published on the DEFRA website, news is only just filtering through
to the UK trade associations. Communication has been poor. No trade
bodies (including the UK Guild of Taxidermy) had been informed of
the guidelines, with the result that some auctioneers and dealers
will unknowingly have contravened the new rules.
When Clive Stewart-Lockhart, managing
director at Woolley & Wallis, mentioned the new measures to 20
or so regional auctioneers at the recent RICS seminar (June 11) his
words were "met with stunned amazement".
The "worked item" derogation states that an
item including the "parts and derivatives" of endangered species
shall be exempt from normal sales controls laid down by the United
Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) if it was acquired prior to June 1947
and has been significantly altered from its natural raw state for
jewellery, adornment, art, utility or musical instrument.
With some exceptions (notably rhinoceros
horn), antiques qualify under the derogation. Stuffed animals are
considered "worked" and do not therefeore require a licence.
However, the term "worked" has long been
open to interpretation.
DEFRA announced the changes via their
website on May 9. At the heart of the policy shift is a fresh
interpretation of the law, which means a volte face on a raft of
items previously considered "worked" - and therefore exempt - that
now require an EC certificate before they can be offered for
The guidelines (intended only for internal
use by Member States' CITES Management Authorities) aim to remove
some of the grey areas that allowed different member states to
interpret the worked derogation in different ways. An appendix to
the guidelines includes images and an explanatory narrative for a
number of previously 'borderline' objects, including narwhal tusks,
marine turtle shells and sawfish rostrums - all of which now
require an 'Article 10' certificate before they can be legitimately
The definition of what constitutes worked
elephant ivory has also changed significantly. For tusks or
sections of tusks to be considered worked they need to be fully
carved across "the whole surface".
Uncarved tusks will no longer qualify as
worked even when polished and permanently mounted as part of
decorative or functional object. Accordingly - while it is
perfectly legal to own them - an Edwardian dinner gong or
silver-mounted candlesticks with tusk supports can no longer be
offered for sale without an EC certificate.
Following the changes, a silver-mounted
centrepiece by Walker & Hall, Sheffield, 1928, incorporating an
elephant tusk (estimate £4000-5000) was withdrawn from Bonhams'
silver sale on June 19.
Antlers or horns of any CITES listed species
(including horns still attached to the skull plate and mounted on a
wooden plaque) are no longer considered worked, while jewellery
where the CITES specimen has been used without being substantially
altered (for example a tiger claw or a humming bird) must also be
accompanied by Article 10 clearance.
The certification process is undertaken by
the Wildlife Licensing & Registration Service in Bristol (SSC
Bristol) at a current cost of £31 per item, although charges are
scheduled to increase to £68 by 2015.*
The consensus is that additional red tape
and the administration fee (due each time an item is sold) will
have a negative effect on the market and particularly at the lower
reaches where the cost of the certificate would form a significant
percentage of the potential selling price.
Already the handful of auctioneers who have
been informed of the new rules are reluctantly turning away items
Sarah Percy-Davis, chief executive of
LAPADA, The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, toldATG:
"While we appreciate the good intentions behind the amendment,
broadening the scope of what constitutes an unworked specimen
requiring an EC certificate is yet another administrative burden
from the European Commission which will ultimately hit small
antiques businesses and will make the trade of many low-value items
falling within this scope financially unviable."
Clarification on the changes can be sought
from SSC Bristol on +44 (0)117 372 8774.
* Following a public consultation, from June 24 the cost of an
'Article 10' certificate will now be £31 (up from £25), with
charges scheduled to increase to £68 at the beginning of 2015. The
price of a re-export permit, necessary for sending elephant ivory
and tortoiseshell outside Europe, has come down from £47 to