All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus Dalbergia. The preeminent rosewood appreciated in the Western world is the wood of Dalbergia nigra which is now[update] a CITES-listed endangered species on Appendix 1, which means no commercial sales for wood that is cut after 1992. It is best known as Brazilian rosewood, but also as Bahia rosewood. This wood has a strong sweet smell, which persists for many years, explaining the name rosewood.
Another classic rosewood comes from Dalbergia latifolia known as (East) Indian rosewood or sonokeling (Indonesia). It is native to India and is also grown in plantations elsewhere in Pakistan (chiniot).
Madagascar rosewood (Dalbergia maritima), known as bois de rose, is highly prized for its red color. It is overexploited in the wild, despite a 2010 moratorium on trade and illegal logging, which continue on a large scale.
Throughout southeast Asia Dalbergia oliveri is harvested for use in woodworking. It has a very fragrant and dense grain near the core, however the outer sapwood is soft and porous. Dalbergia cultrata that has variegated burgundy to light brown color, a blackwood timber is sold as Burmese Rosewood. Products built with rosewood based engineered woods are sold as Malaysian Rosewood or as Dalbergia oliveri.
Some rosewood comes from Dalbergia retusa, also known as the Nicaraguan rosewood or as cocobolo, which is controlled by CITES under Appendix 2 which allows some commercial activity. Several species are known as Guatemalan rosewood or Panama rosewood: D. tucerencis, D. tucarensis, and D. cubiquitzensis. Honduran rosewood:D. stevensonii, also on CITES Appendix 2, is used for marimba keys, guitar parts, clarinets and other musical and ornamental applications.
Not all species in the large genus Dalbergia yield rosewoods; only about a dozen species do. The woods of some other species in the genus Dalbergia are notable—even famous—woods in their own right: African blackwood, cocobolo, kingwood, and tulipwood. The woods of some other species are usable for tool handles at best.
The timber trade will sell many timbers under the name rosewood (usually with an adjective) due to some (outward) similarities. A fair number of these timbers come from other legume genera; one such species that is often mentioned is Bolivian Machaerium scleroxylon sold as Bolivian rosewood. Another that may be found in market from Southeast Asia is Pterocarpus indicus, sold as New Guinea rosewood (and related species). Dalbergia sissoo is timber from rosewood species from India and Bangladesh, usually known as Sheesham or North-Indian Rosewood. It is extremely dense and has mild rot resistance, but it is porous and its exterior is soft and susceptible to wood-boring insects. It is used for making cabinets, flooring and carving. It is exported as quality veneers. Due to its after work quality when sealed and dyed, it is often sold as genuine rosewood or as teak. It has no discernible qualities of a genuine rosewood. It has comparable strength with teak, but lower quality and price than teak or Dalbergia latifolia.
Although its wood bears no resemblance whatsoever to the true rosewoods, the Australian rose mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum, family Meliaceae) and Australian blackwood, (Acacia melanoxylon) is also sold as rosewood. Australian rose mahogany due to the strong smell of roses from freshly cut bark is more mistakenly called as a "rosewood".
All rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, being suitable for guitars (the fretboards on electric and acoustic guitars often being made of rosewood), marimbas, recorders, turnery (billiard cues, fountain pens, black pieces in chess sets, etc.), handles, furniture, and luxury flooring, etc. Rosewood oil, used in perfume, is extracted from the wood of Aniba rosaeodora, which is not related to the rosewoods used for lumber.
In general, world stocks are poor through overexploitation. Some species become canopy trees (up to 30 m high), and large pieces can occasionally be found in the trade. Rosewood is now protected worldwide. At the recent summit of the international wildlife trade in South Africa, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) moved to protect the world’s most trafficked wild product by placing all 300 species of the rosewood tree under trade restrictions.
The dust created from sanding rosewood is considered a sensitizing irritant and can trigger asthma and other respiratory ailments. Often, the more a person is exposed to rosewood dust, the more sensitive they can become to exposure.
Genuine rosewood product characteristics
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- Presence of hints of coarse grains with the shiny and silky smooth texture, compared to the glossy finish of artificial polishes.
- Even texture with an orange/yellow-red to deep purple with black bars color range. Even if artificial dyes can reproduce the color, if with an uneven texture it can be confirmed the product is not made of rosewood. Fake rosewoods products would have a thick color or light colors with white color in some space.
- If directly bought from workshop, the sawdust would have a flowery aroma. If not the product is compromised. Certain showpieces might have an unusual aroma, this is the effect of fragrant aerosol, not the quality.
- Water test, A drop of water mixed with sawdust will make the dust submerged and the droplet will have a purplish precipitation.
- Sound test, A gentle knock on the wood will produce a crisp sound without noise.
- Dalbergia cultrata
- Dalbergia spruceana
- Dalbergia nigra
- Dalbergia latifolia
- Dalbergia retusa
- Dalbergia oliveri
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