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Musical Instruments Made of Rare Materials

Do you have Ivory or Brazilian Rosewood, Abalone or other materials built into your instrument? Are you travelling abroad?

Last updated: 07 January 2021

After the Transition Period, movement of CITES goods between GB and EU, and between GB and NI will require import and export / re- permits from the UK Management Authority and the relevant Member State CITES Management Authority. CITES goods must travel through a designated point of entry/exit. Documentation must be presented for endorsement by Border Force officials at the GB border.

You can start the process now for documentation to move items (import/export permits are valid for six months).

CITES-listed species that may be used in the manufacture of musical instruments and therefore subject to CITES controls:

  • Ivory, e.g. violin bow tips, piano keys or ivory bagpipes
  • Rosewood, e.g. guitar fretboards or violins
  • African blackwood, e.g. woodwind instruments
  • Ebony, e.g. some stringed instruments or pianos
  • Mahogany (some species), e.g. guitars
  • Bubinga, e.g. guitars
  • Tortoiseshell

This list is not exhaustive and we would recommend either contacting the APHA CITES team if you are unsure or searching the Species+ website. English or Latin names can be searched.

Further resources

Below are links to the other relevant pages on the UK Government’s website that you may find useful:

We are expecting further ports to be designated shortly in preparation for the end of the Transition Period and to facilitate a greater number of travel routes. We will communicate these changes.

Finding out if your species is listed

You can check if a species is listed by searching the species or Latin name on the Species+ website.

Commercial trade in the species listed in Appendix I (Annex A of the Wildlife Trade Regulations which implement CITES in the EU/UK) is prohibited, trade in Appendix II and III (Annexes B and C) listed species is controlled.

Please contact the UK Management Authority for more information and advice on the requirements for your specific goods/movement. Traveling without the correct documents may result in confiscation of the item and prosecution.

The rosewood exemption

Instruments containing rosewood (Dalbergia spp. or Guibourtia demeusei, G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii).

In December 2019 an exemption for musical instruments, parts and accessories made of rosewood (except Brazilian rosewood, Dalbergia nigra) came into force. If the item meets the definition below then it is exempt from CITES controls and no CITES documents are needed.

“Finished musical instruments: A musical instrument (as referenced by the Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization, Chapter 92; musical instruments, parts and accessories of such articles) that is ready to play or needs only the installation of parts to make it playable. This term includes antique instruments (as defined by the Harmonized System codes 97.05 and 97.06; Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques).”


“Finished musical instrument accessories “A musical instrument accessory (as referenced by the Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization, Chapter 92; musical instruments, parts and accessories of such articles) that is separate from the musical instrument, and is specifically designed or shaped to be used explicitly in association with an instrument, and that requires no further modification to be used.”


“Finished musical instrument parts: A part (as referenced by the Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization, Chapter 92; musical instruments, parts and accessories of such articles) of a musical instrument that is ready to install and is specifically designed and shaped to be used explicitly in association with the instrument to make it playable.”

There was an additional exemption for non-commercial exports/imports of small items made of these species up to a maximum weight of 10kg per species per shipment. This means these shipments are again exempt from CITES controls and no CITES documents are needed.

Musical Instrument Certificates and Traveling Exhibition Certificates

In certain circumstances, e.g. if travelling regularly with personal CITES items where no trade takes place (such as performance or display purposes), there are alternative permits you can apply for which can be used for repeat movements and last for three years.

These include a Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) and a Traveling Exhibition Certificate (TEC), Please contact APHA if you would like to check whether one of these certificates might apply to you by emailing

Musical Instrument Certificates are currently free of charge, and we would recommend this as the most flexible option for musicians travelling to and from the EU. MICs can be applied for and issued now and this would ensure you have the necessary documentation for any movements in the New Year.

You may find our annotated MIC application form useful.

Northern Ireland specific arrangements

Under the terms of the NI Protocol (agreed as part of the revised Withdrawal Agreement in 2019) the directly applicable EU Wildlife Trade Regulations will continue to apply in NI and CITES controls will apply at the GB/NI boundary.

This means that direct movements between NI and the ER27 do not need CITES import/export permits, but CTIES documents are needed for movements between GB and NI.

To facilitate the movement of CITES specimens between GB to NI, and NI to GB, the import and export checks will all happen (be co-located) in NI. This means you may use any point of exit from GB but must one of the CITES-designated points of entry and exit in NI (Belfast seaport or Belfast Int’l airport).

For example, you may leave GB via Cairnryan and have both your GB export permit and NI import permit inspected/endorsed in Belfast seaport.

Instruments with Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl (MoP) can be used to refer to the white inlay of any shell, however the UK interpretation of CITES is that controls only apply to MoP known to have come from a CITES listed species.

The main MoP producing families are not CITES-listed and those MoP-producing CITES species do not appear to have been regularly used in bow-making. Moreover, MoP pieces used on musical instruments are often too small to identify. As such, unless there is specific evidence to suggest the MoP in an instrument derives from a CITES-listed species, MoP can be considered out with CITES controls.

However, we would recommend that:

  • (Re-)exporters of Mother of Pearl should check with the CITES Management Authority (MA) of the country of import as their interpretation of CITES may differ
  • Importers should check with the MA of the country of export; if no export permit is issued then no import permit will be required from Centre for International Trade, Bristol. If the exporting MA requires a permit CITB can only issue one if it is for a named CITES listed species.

Our Crossing Borders guide

Together with FIM and Performing Arts Employers’ Associations League Europe (Pearle) we’ve produced a guide on applying for CITES musical instrument certifications, and complying with the applicable rules. This advice is suitable for music ensembles, groups and orchestras, as well as for individual musicians.

Read and download ‘Crossing Borders: A Guide for Musicians and Ensembles Travelling with Musical Instruments Containing Protected Species’.