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Ivory or Plastic?

Traditional pianos were made with Ivory keys for a long time. Things have moved on and piano keys are now made with a plastic covering, but does it make a difference to the functionality or feel of the piano? Continue reading to find out more.

Ivory piano keys in blog Ivory or Plastic?
Ivory piano keys

There are several considerations when buying a piano and one of them is the nature of the keys. All piano keys are made of wood shaped and tapered with a covering on top. Traditionally this covering was ivory but understandably this is no longer accepted.

It is still possible to buy a traditional piano with ivory keys but this must be considered very carefully as there are strict legal restrictions when dealing with ivory. We strongly suggest reading the government regulations carefully although we can surmise that if a piano has an ivory certificate - which dates the ivory pre legalities - then it is acceptable to buy and transport it.

Some pianos are now made with "ivorette" which is a type of covering made to look like ivory for the old traditional/antique feel. These come in varying shades of cream/white as do plastic coverings. Below we have answered a couple of quick questions to make it easier for you to distinguish between ivory and plastic and understand the implications of both.

  • Which type of key top is easier to repair? Neither ivory or plastic is easier to repair. Ivory repairs can be made with specialist ivory repair kits, as can plastic. That being said sometimes it is easier and a better finish to simply replace a plastic key top with a new one, which you can not do with ivory key tops.

  • How can I tell if a piano has plastic or ivory key tops? Ivory key tops are always in two pieces; the front wider section and the back, long thin section. It is incredibly unusual to see ivory key tops in one piece - we have never seen this to date. When looking down at a piano key, look in the middle and if you see a thin join line you can be confident that the key tops are made of ivory.

  • Does either plastic or ivory change the function and ability of the piano? The simple answer is no. Some people have preferences for the feel or plastic or ivory, but this does not change the functionality or musical abilities of the piano at all.

  • Are there legal regulations to ivory or plastic? Yes. When dealing with items which have ivory there are strict legal requirements. Read the government website and seek further advice if you have any doubt. There are no legal regulations with plastic or variations of plastic.

  • Are there moral implications? Yes and no. This is an individual matter and depends on many factors which you must consider carefully for yourself.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog post Ivory or Plastic? and that it has helped you gain a brief understanding of the differences in covering. We advise strong discretion and reference the government website below when considering ivory.

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