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I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
#2373445 01/14/15 11:30 AM
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I've heard it said so many times around here that "no piano maker uses ivory for keytops anymore" that I had come to accept it as gospel truth. So imagine my reaction when visiting Grotrian's website this morning (the company's CEO is coming to Chicago this weekend) and reading this:

"All Grotrian instruments are equipped with key tops made of white acrylic glass ... Nevertheless ebony and ivory are available; ask your local Grotrian dealer for prices." (bolding added) (here's a link to the Grotrian web page)

Before you all jump all over me, I presume that the ivory Grotrian uses is from a legal, unprotected species (mastodon? walrus, perhaps?) and I'm not accusing them of anything improper.

But think of how this factoid might alter the thinking of government regulators and enforcers who are trying to curb illegal traffic in elephant ivory and who have been hearing a constant chorus from the piano community that pianos should be categorically exempted because "no piano companies currently use ivory." (see the "Gov. regulations (pending) ..." thread in this forum).

How is the cop going to tell Grotrian's legal ivory from somebody else's illegal ivory?

Larry.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373449 01/14/15 11:45 AM
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I read the Grotrian link. However, I was under the impression that either bone or mineral keytops were used as substitutes for ivory when plastics like acrylic glass were not used.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373460 01/14/15 12:24 PM
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I suppose you can BUY them from germany, but you can not IMPORT it to the US


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373484 01/14/15 01:44 PM
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This is really confusing for everyone. The bans are for elephant ivory. Of course mammoth ivory is available because since they are extinct there is no law against using it. Except we may find out that here in the US they will ban even the so called, "look alike materials" that have been banned by New Jersey and New York State.

I will update the sticky thread when the rules are published and it is likely that there will be some Federal latitude regarding musical instruments manufactured before the ivory ban but I can assure you that no new pianos can be imported into the US under any circumstances if they contain Elephant Ivory (either Asian or African). And mammoth ivory will have to have some type of documentation that will make the tax code look like a 3rd grade school math test.

Right now even if you are trying to take a guitar with you on vacation that was made in 2014 with an ivory colored plastic trim you had better have docs showing where you bought it and how old it is. Once this gets in place they will start looking at everything, white plastic jewelry, decorative boxes, letter openers etc.


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373486 01/14/15 01:52 PM
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You can still buy new ivory key tops in Europe, it's true. Unless the law has changed in the last 18 months, there is certainly still pre-ban stock available, and it's all certified, and everyone using it needs to have it certified as well. It is all possible.

It's also possible to import it from certain countries and not others.

I'm not really comfortable with using pre-ban stock, because it stimulates the trade in, and demand for ivory. It's a different matter if you have an older instrument that already has an ivory keyboard, but we're talking here about preparing ivory from tusks, albeit pre 1988 kills, for a new keyboard. I don't think it's necessary in this day and age, and I wish makers would stop offering it in Europe. We should have moved on from this years ago.

The other moral issue is that some of the countries you can import it from, don't have as stringent demands on where THEY import it from, and you don't know always if you're getting old stock or newly poached stock.

If the manufacturers were talking about cow bone or mammoth tusk ivory, they would stipulate that cow bone and mammoth tusk are available for key tops. If they just state 'ivory' you can pretty much bet that they mean ivory. Sad really.

Even ebony isn't necessary, it's an endangered wood and we can use other materials. I'm the first to admit, I think playing on ebony and ivory feels really nice under the hand, but it doesn't really affect the performance to play on a plastic or mineral top, and my piano has mineral key tops fitted on to it's (new) keyboard.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373522 01/14/15 04:08 PM
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Joe, Things have gotten a lot more complicated in the last two years with the International community getting much more involved. In the last year CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, have issued much more stringent policies that prompted the US to adopt a policy that is just now being fleshed out in the form of "rules" that have not yet been published. In short all commercial uses of ivory outside museums are being banned.

See my above thread about this.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2325623/Gov._regulations_(pending)_aff.html#Post2325623

Right now we are in a limbo because the policy has been announced but the enforcement rules have not. We are waiting until after the rules are announced for a public comment period.

Even import and export of personal ivory items like an antique violin bow has been in question even if it is not for sale. Governments are working very hard to try to coordinate these laws so that international travel of violinists and other musicians with instruments containing small amounts of ivory will be allowed. But right now it is like waiting for next year's episode of Downton Abbey. It may take years before the regulations are in place so that we know what will be allowed.

Last edited by S. Phillips; 01/14/15 04:10 PM.

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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373531 01/14/15 04:30 PM
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Yeah I don't really understand the whole problem. Most people don't even give a second thought to growing and killing cows every day for food. So what would be the problem if they would grow elephants for their tusk? If they did that to meet the demand, the tusk might drop so much in price that killing elephants in the wild would not be worth the effort.


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
wouter79 #2373583 01/14/15 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
So what would be the problem if they would grow elephants for their tusk?


Pretty sure it wouldn't be economically feasible. Elephants eat a lot and grow slowly.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
wouter79 #2373584 01/14/15 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
Yeah I don't really understand the whole problem. Most people don't even give a second thought to growing and killing cows every day for food. So what would be the problem if they would grow elephants for their tusk? If they did that to meet the demand, the tusk might drop so much in price that killing elephants in the wild would not be worth the effort.


We could also do the same with Brazilian Rosewood
But the will is not there...


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
S. Phillips #2373678 01/15/15 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by S. Phillips
This is really confusing for everyone. The bans are for elephant ivory. Of course mammoth ivory is available because since they are extinct there is no law against using it. Except we may find out that here in the US they will ban even the so called, "look alike materials" that have been banned by New Jersey and New York State.


Excuse my ignorance, but seriously? Mammoth ivory? Are we talking about wooly mammoths that became mostly extinct 10,000 years ago? I know a few survived on some island until 1600 BC according to The Google.

Seems like a tusk from 10,000 years ago wouldn't be very sturdy, or belongs in a museum next to dinosaur bones. Or are they just so plentiful that we're slapping them on pianos?

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373686 01/15/15 01:13 AM
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I used to carbon date mammoth tusks. One from Dimmo, a baby mammoth found in the Siberian Arctic was 44,000 years old. I don't think he wound up on a piano, but in a museum. I imagine you would need an age certification on any of this stuff. The IRS code is so simple by comparison to the expected new rules.


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
wouter79 #2373688 01/15/15 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
Yeah I don't really understand the whole problem. Most people don't even give a second thought to growing and killing cows every day for food. So what would be the problem if they would grow elephants for their tusk? If they did that to meet the demand, the tusk might drop so much in price that killing elephants in the wild would not be worth the effort.


Well, I think part of it is eating cow is so ingrained in our culture, but sometimes when people find out what really happens in the slaughterhouse, unless they have no emotion, they usually feel pretty depressed. But beef is such a big part of diet it's hard to get everyone to stop eating it. But PETA is trying.

Elephants are endangered, cows aren't. We use most of the cow, meat, milk, leather, etc. Where elephants we just kill them for their tusk and let the rest of the carcass rot. Similar to shark fins which is now banned in California and they've started even banning it in China.

The other thing is elephants are extremely intelligent. Not that dumb cows should be treated any less, but elephants have photographic memory, can paint, dance, etc. They mourn for their dead not unlike people. Saw this video once of a mother crying for more than a day when her calf died. Kept trying to pickup the body, one of the saddest things I ever saw. Can't find the video, but this article describes it a bit:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...-film-maker-reveals-animals-like-us.html


Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
BornInTheUSA #2373689 01/15/15 01:20 AM
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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373710 01/15/15 03:03 AM
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michaelha

Is elephant meat not suited for food?

>The other thing is elephants are extremely intelligent

Pigs are also extremely intelligent. And that cows don't cry or paint does not mean they are not intelligent.

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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
wouter79 #2373714 01/15/15 03:29 AM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
michaelha

Is elephant meat not suited for food?

>The other thing is elephants are extremely intelligent

Pigs are also extremely intelligent. And that cows don't dry or paint does not mean they are not intelligent.


That's true. I believe the only reason the US Gov't bans ivory is because elephants are endangered.

I don't even think shark fins are banned in the US - only CA and perhaps other states because the people here are a little more touchy about stuff like that.

Also, it's tradition. We've been eating pigs and cows for a long time - it's hard to change. Dogs aren't endangered, but we don't eat them and we get pretty offended when we learn about countries that do. And this is why you see conflicts when some international body bans hunting animals like whales. It's easier for us since we don't eat whales or use their oil anymore but harder for countries like Norway and Japan.



Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373727 01/15/15 05:22 AM
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I was told as recently as last year that I can still order an Elephant Ivory keyboard, cost to trade is about £2000 plus fitting. To be perfectly honest apart from the moral issues, it's also a complete waste of money.

I do think that it's a bit silly though, to start putting sanctions on items that they KNOW are well over 100 years old.

Some law did change in the UK recently saying that if an instrument or keyboard for an instrument was made after 1960, it needed to have special certification and some payment had to be made etc etc.

There are aspects of the law that are a little silly, but I understand why they are doing it.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
Joseph Fleetwood #2373756 01/15/15 07:59 AM
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I guess I have to ask the question why would you use ivory today even if it could be somehow "farmed" in a humane way (which IMHO it can't).

I was told more than once that the only reason ivory was selected starting in the 1800's for use in piano keys is that there was no alternative that had the right structural and tactile properties at that time.

With today's plastics technology, many companies are building "substitute" ivory key surfaces that have all of the advantages of the "real thing", but none of the disadvantages (cranking, yellowing, chipping, etc.)


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Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
BornInTheUSA #2373759 01/15/15 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by michaelha

Excuse my ignorance, but seriously? Mammoth ivory? Are we talking about wooly mammoths that became mostly extinct 10,000 years ago? I know a few survived on some island until 1600 BC according to The Google.

Seems like a tusk from 10,000 years ago wouldn't be very sturdy, or belongs in a museum next to dinosaur bones. Or are they just so plentiful that we're slapping them on pianos?


Mammoth or mastodon ivory keytops have been available for years from Steingraeber, Pleyel, and others. Siberia has a growing economy of hunters and traders.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM_W6ncz-R0

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
iLaw #2373761 01/15/15 08:25 AM
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It should be noted that elephant tusks can be harvested without harming the animal. In fact, African conservationists often tranquilize trophy elephants in the wild and harvest their tusks in order to save the animal from poachers (who won't kill a tusk-less elephant). So regardless of the economic feasibility of "tusk farming," it could be done without butchering.

Re: I guess you still CAN get a new piano with ivory keytops
Sir Lurksalot #2373843 01/15/15 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Sir Lurksalot
Originally Posted by michaelha

Excuse my ignorance, but seriously? Mammoth ivory? Are we talking about wooly mammoths that became mostly extinct 10,000 years ago? I know a few survived on some island until 1600 BC according to The Google.

Seems like a tusk from 10,000 years ago wouldn't be very sturdy, or belongs in a museum next to dinosaur bones. Or are they just so plentiful that we're slapping them on pianos?


Mammoth or mastodon ivory keytops have been available for years from Steingraeber, Pleyel, and others. Siberia has a growing economy of hunters and traders.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM_W6ncz-R0


Wow. Thanks for the video. I guess it's not yet rare enough to belong in a museum. Also, surprised it hasn't deteriorated after all these thousands of years.

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