Ivory and silver trophy
Ivory and silver trophies such as this are prohibited to sell on the grounds that they are now considered ‘unworked’. Lot 162 in Christie’s South Kensington sale of April 28, 2015.

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London Silver Vaults dealer Barry Collins, 64, who gave the item to Christie’s South Kensington to sell, was spared a fine but given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £635 in costs.

Lawyer Michael Levy, defending Collins at City of London Magistrates’ Court on September 7, said his client was misled by the auction experts. “If Christie’s had behaved properly and hadn’t broken the law then Mr Collins wouldn’t be here because they would have turned around to Mr Collins and said ‘Sorry, we can’t sell that item.’”

The 2ft 4in (69cm) high trophy had chased foliate mounts which were inscribed Lest we forget and engraved with the badge of the Junior United Service Club. Although more than a century old, the object contravened the revised guidance issued by the European Commission to CITES management authorities in December 2012.

Christie’s included it in a South Kensington sale of April 28, 2015 with a £1200-1800 estimate but, following a tip-off, the item was seized by officers from the Wildlife Crime Unit of the Metropolitan Police during the sale viewing. The trophy will now be kept on display by the Metropolitan Police for training purposes.

“An honest and genuine mistake”

In May this year Christie’s admitted to “an honest and genuine mistake” when fined £3250 by Hammersmith Magistrates Court. The auctioneers said it was “an isolated incident” and confirmed to ATG that they have robust training programme in place to identify illegal ivory that is regularly reviewed.

The 2012 guidance states that uncarved ivory tusks embellished with metal mounts no longer qualify under the ‘worked item’ derogation.

This allows most antiques an exemption from the controls, providing the items are “significantly altered from its natural raw state for jewellery, adornment, art, utility or musical instrument” prior to being acquired in June 1947. It is illegal to sell unworked elephant ivory of any age under CITES rules.