“Help! I think I have ivory on my instrument/bow! What do I do???”

This is a question I’ve been asked several times since the US Fish and Wildlife Service implemented rules dictating African elephant ivory importation last year. Don’t fret; if you have ivory, you have options! Ivory for musical instruments is most prevalent on older (around pre-1980s) string bows, guitars, bassoon bell rings, piano keys, and bagpipes, among others. First thing’s first: do you actually have ivory?

Is this ivory?

It’s fairly easy to distinguish ivory from plastic. Ivory has tiny cross-hatching lines called Schreger lines. Here is a picture of elephant ivory with clearly distinguishable Schreger lines:

Schreger Lines on a piece of ivory

Schreger Lines on a piece of ivory

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