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All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus Dalbergia. The pre-eminent rosewood appreciated in the Western world is the wood of Dalbergia nigra. 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 continues 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, but the outer sapwood is soft and porous. Dalbergia cultrata, variegated burgundy to light brown in color, is a blackwood timber sold as Burmese rosewood. Products built with rosewood-based engineered woods are sold as Malaysian rosewood or as D. oliveri.
Some rosewood comes from Dalbergia retusa, also known as the Nicaraguan rosewood or as cocobolo. Several species are known as Guatemalan rosewood or Panama rosewood: D. tucerencis, D. tucarensis, and D. cubiquitzensis. Honduran rosewood:D. stevensonii 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 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 and flooring, and for 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) are 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.
The dust created from sanding rosewood is considered a sensitizing irritant and can trigger asthma and other respiratory ailments. Often, the more people are exposed to rosewood dust, the more sensitive they can become to exposure.
Status as an endangered species
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 a summit of the international wildlife trade in South Africa, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) moved to protect the world’s most trafficked wild product by placing all 300 species of the rosewood tree under trade restrictions.
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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.
- A drop of water mixed with sawdust will make the dust submerged and the droplet will have a purplish precipitation.
- A gentle knock on the wood will produce a crisp sound without noise.
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