We were once the biggest trader, now the smallest and no negative commercial impact, whatsoever!

Our cessation journey and advocacy for the removal of elephant ivory and rhinoceros’ horn from auction circulation is not over yet but in the almost three years since we began to make the connection between our own auction trade and the ongoing poaching that remains at catastrophic proportions, progress is emerging.

While our own policy has not yet been adopted by any of my industry colleagues, it is at least being discussed within antiques trade and auction circles; we have presented the policy in local and international forums, it has been presented as part of our submission to a federal parliamentary enquiry and encouragingly, domestic government interest in the issue is only increasing.

Additionally, we continue to monitor the impacts of this cessation on our own business and communicate those findings – to date those findings confirm that the Leonard Joel business has enjoyed no commercial side effects; no reduction in overall sales and no staff-resourcing impacts. We were once the biggest trader, now the smallest and no negative commercial impacts, whatsoever!

In international circles the direction is also encouraging. To Bonham’s credit and after global public outcry, a year ago they cancelled the sale of an entire multi-million-dollar antique rhinoceros horn collection in Hong Kong, vowing never to sell the material again. Not long after Sotheby’s and Christie’s also confirmed their decision never to deal in the material.

But while this is truly promising, rhinoceros horn cessation for auction houses at least, is the “easy cessation”. The profound one and the one Leonard Joel is calling for, with very limited exceptions, is the removal from trade of ivory; whether old or new from all markets, whether at auction or in the antiques trade. It is this material that regrettably pulses through the veins of too many auction houses and antique shops and in depressingly large quantities that, whether old or new, make it impossible for any adequate detection of illegal and recently poached ivory. In simple terms, while any trade remains it will provide not just cover for the illegal material but will drive value in it and only encourage further poaching.

At nation state level things are shifting and it may just be that government’s ultimately drive the cessation through bans rather than the current mix of regulation and industry collaboration – an arrangement that for almost half a century has simply failed to stem the poaching. The world cautiously applauded China’s decision to ban and shut down its ivory industry by the end of 2018, while this year the United Kingdom, home to one of the world’s great collecting cultures, passed in to law the most stringent ban on ivory trade in the world. The UK’s move will now hopefully set the example for other countries and their industries to follow suit.

At Leonard Joel our mission on this issue is to lead with conviction and when we overlaid the UK legislation with our current policy, we realised that we had room for improvement. With this in mind and as part of our joint centenary celebrations with IFAW, we announced our commitment to adopt in full on 1st January 2020, the UK legislation which effectively brings our policy in line with that legislation’s intent and outcomes.

So, as we say goodbye to our centenary year this is our 2020 commitment to this cause.

By JOHN ALBRECHT