CITES update?

October 6, 2020, 8:16 PM · International travel isn't going to be a huge concern for a while. Still...

I am left with some conflicting impressions about travel with bows (and other instruments) containing ivory and other restricted materials.

Are we still at the stage where antiques and/or items with a de minimis amount of the banned substance will pass through? Or would it be worth getting a passport for an antique bow with an ivory frog, for example? Is tortoise-shell given the same pass that lets ivory through?

Finally, have people found dealers or lawyers sufficiently fluent in this issue to offer quick guidance on what to get and how to assemble necessary documents?

Replies (3)

October 7, 2020, 4:10 AM · It’s always worth having CITES documentation for your instrument and bows, and I’ve always managed to get these from my go to luthier. Or, from the manufacturer (such as Codabow). However, I would just avoid travelling with an ivory frog at all, and find a bow that doesn’t hold any banned materials. Or, I suppose you can pay to have the frog changed to something like Ebony, and the tip of your bow changed to metal/plastic or something else.

Travelled internationally at the beginning of this year, and several times last year with my violin, with documentation for the rosewood on it. Had no issues.

Generally I’ve found I’ve had no issues or inspections at borders going into countries, but at security on my outbound my instrument case is usually opened, swabbed and sometimes the documentation is inspected.

Of course, there are horror stories out there, but I expect these are few and far between.

October 7, 2020, 7:19 AM · This a complex and nuanced issue, talk to a bow maker for more information. Year of manufacture plays an important role for example. Language on documentation is important. It takes little to get proper documentation from customs/fish and wildlife, buy generally speaking you are allowed to travel with this stuff for personal use with little to no issue.
October 7, 2020, 1:50 PM · In theory, as long as you have all items documented in accordance with the legal requirements for the places you visit, you should be able to make it through customs safely. However, there are a lot of variables in play, and it often comes down to the luck of the draw with the customs agents.

Because of the headaches and losses that have occurred on several occasions and the fluctuations in regulations, many players have chosen to avoid taking any ivory with them. For those with ivory frogs, replacement frogs in ebony are commonly requested to allow for safer travel.

The big orchestra in my area was originally scheduled to do a tour of Japan this year. In advance, everyone had their ivory bow tips replaced to avoid any issues.

There are bows available now that are marketed as safe for travel, as they contain no (currently) restricted materials.


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