Years of wear will take a toll on ivory keytops, and the once beautiful ivory will become unsightly. Some keytops may get cracked or become dislodged. You’ve got two choices: restore the ivories or replace them.
Neither of these are bad options, and they won’t really affect the overall value of your piano. It’s a matter of preference.
Replacing ivory keytops requires purchasing plastic replacement keytops. Replacement keytops are the less expensive route. They’re visually appealing, and the plastic is durable which may be ideal for a piano played by a young student or kept in a house with small children who may try to play it. While replacement keytops are a good option, they aren’t ivory. For some piano owners, that’s a crucial distinction.
Restoring ivory keytops is ideal for someone who is willing to pay a bit extra in order to keep an ivory keyset. Ivory keytops are becoming increasingly rarer, and to most piano enthusiasts they hold vintage value the way that an old instrument would.
While replacing the keytops is pretty straightforward, restoring them is a bit more complicated, particularly when they’re broken. There are legal methods of obtaining new ivory keytops, but the expense of that is far more than what most piano owners are willing to bear.
The most sensible way to complete the keyset with missing ivories is to use a replacement from another piano. We’ll work to find a keytop that most closely matches the missing key, though ultimately finding a perfect match is unlikely. Brightening the yellowed keytops is a time consuming process best done by a professional. Ivory is porous. Stains on them take time and diligent effort to bring out.
Because these keytops are so tedious to restore and replace, this isn’t a job I’d recommend a DIY on. This is one of the many procedures that we do in our piano restoration services. If you’ve got ivory keytops that you’d like restored, contact us to get an estimate.