This wood is called “black” for its dark coloration and is popularly known as Ebony. Ebony species are native to the temperate regions and are widely known for their durability and aesthetic value, as well as being an impermeable species to most species of fungi and insects. This high in demand wood is dense enough to sink in water, is finely textured and has a mirror finish when polished.
They grow in many different climates and elevations. However, species that are native to the tropics are more likely to be extremely dense and impermeable species. Blackwood’s prices vary depending on where that wood originates from and what species is most prominent in that geographical area.
This type of wood is generally known to be extremely expensive and is extremely hard to come by. This is because of the fact that ebony trees are only found in very specific areas, and most are endangered. The trees grow in Africa, India, and South America, but their slow growth rate and exploitation have made them vulnerable to extinction.
Origins of Ebony Wood
The History of blackwood species can be traced back to ancient times. Blackwood species have been an important species for African tribes as well as early Australians.
Ebony wood was even popular among kings and queens as they used it to make drinking cups due to their belief that it could neutralize poisons.
Ebony has been used to make some of the world’s most prized artifacts and exotic wooden items. Carved pieces of it have also been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs.
What Are The Uses Of Ebony Wood?
Ebony is a very dense and difficult wood to work with, but once it is finished, it is absolutely gorgeous! This tree’s inner part, its heartwood, that’s usually almost jet black with a deep, consistent texture is used to make beautiful and durable items.
You can find ebony used in furniture, instruments, carvings, butcher blocks, and yard or indoor game pieces such as chess sets. Many people who value durability and aesthetics will often turn to ebony to provide their furniture or carvings with the strength they need to last through time. In music, ebony is often used for making the backs and sides of stringed instruments such as violins, cellos, and bass guitars.
10 Different Types Of Ebony Woods
1. Ceylon Ebony (Diospyros ebenum)
This ebony species is native to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. It is very dark almost black in color with brown undertones. The grain is very straight and almost non-existent because of the density. Ceylon Ebony is also referred to as East Indian Ebony.
This species of Ebony was the primary source of ebony used in furniture production before the discovery of other types. Today, this species can be found in luxury woodworking due to its rarity and difficulty to work with.
Its fine, smooth and naturally lustrous qualities make it a popular choice in making musical instruments parts such as piano keys, nuts, etc. but due to the wood being extremely limited in supply and of high value, it’s vulnerable to exploitation causing the Sri Lankan and Indian government to ban its export.
Ceylon Ebony is hard to work with, having a blunting effect on cutting edge tools and is difficult to dry and glue but turns well and is very durable when finished properly.
2. Gaboon Ebony (Diospyros crassiflora)
This species of Ebony is native to equatorial West Africa. Its grain pattern tends to be very straight and compact with dark color, though occasionally dark brown or grayish-brown streaks may be seen.
The wood is very heavy and extremely hard. Gabon Ebony is also known as African Ebony, Nigerian Ebony, Cameroon Ebony.
This type of wood was one of the most popular choices for luxury woodworking furniture due to its dark color and durability. However, the species is now endangered due to overharvesting. This has resulted in it becoming one of the most expensive types of Ebony.
Gaboon Ebony also has a mild, slightly unpleasant scent when it is being worked on and is difficult to glue but finishes well and takes polish nicely.
This wood is typically used to create artistic carvings and luxury furniture, but it is also used to make piano keys, phonograph needles, highly valuable billiard cues, and decorative boxes.
3. Macassar Ebony (Diospyros celebica)
Also referred to as Striped Ebony and Amara Ebony, Macassar ebony is native to central and southeast Asia. The wood is an extremely dark brown with black striping that can sometimes look purple or blue in color. The stripes give the wood a unique appearance causing it to also be sometimes called Striped Rosewood.
Macassar got its name from its native area in Indonesia, named after the Indonesian port-city of Makassar, which is one of the primary points of exportation.
Macassar Ebony isn’t as resistant to insects as other types of ebony but is still very durable and can be stained to make it less visible.
This wood is dense, heavy, and very hard. It is mainly used in woodworking for decoration and to make veneer, pool cues, collectible cutlery handles, fine furniture, and expensive decor.
This species of wood is listed as vulnerable because of the population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations.
4. Pale moon ebony (Diospyros malabarica)
Popularly known as Black and White Ebony, this species is native to Laos and southeast Asia.
It can be recognized by its light color with dark and pale striping. The grain is typically straight and the texture is fine and lustrous.
Although it has medium resistance to insects with portions of the wood commonly having insect holes present, it is still considered one of the most durable types of Ebony and is well sought after with extremely high rates.
Pale moon Ebony is typically used for high-end woodworking furniture and inlays, turned objects and other small specialty wood items.
This wood’s density is reported to vary significantly based upon the concentration of darker heartwood as compared to the lighter pale sections. It also generally works and turns well, though pieces may be difficult to dry.
5. Mun ebony (Diospyros mun)
Also called Vietnamese Ebony, this type of wood is dark brown in color with a prominent stripe pattern caused by darker and lighter areas throughout the grain.
It is native to the Laos and Vietnam region. The species has a fine texture, and straight grain pattern, with a heavy feel and a natural luster.
This wood is extremely dense thus difficult to work with, but is durable and takes a natural shine when finished properly. Mun Ebony is typically used in woodworking for carvings, inlays, veneer, and turned objects.
It is also listed as critically endangered due to a population reduction of over 80% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation. This has resulted in the export of Mun Ebony being currently banned with prices for the wood to be very high, and available from dubious sources.
6. Coromandel ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon)
Coromandel wood, sometimes known as Calamander wood, is native to the India and southeast Asia region. The tree has a specific habitat being typically found near rivers or swampy areas where waterlogging occurs.
The wood looks luxurious and vibrant, typically having a beautiful hazel-brown color, with black stripes or vice versa. Its name refers to the Coromandel Coast in India from where it was exported. It was used in furniture, luthiery, and for sculpture.
Calamander has been logged to extinction in the wild and is no longer available for new work in any quantity. Furniture or artifacts in calamander are extremely high priced and hard to get your hands on. Nowadays, the nearest relation to Coromandel is Macassar Ebony.
Also Read: Best Type of Wood for Desk
7. Mauritius ebony (Diospyros revaughanii)
Also known as Dark ebony, Mauritius ebony originates from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and has now become an endangered species due to large-scale exploitation for its timber.
It typically features a straight grain with a uniform texture and has a moderate rot resistance. The Mauritius ebony tree was once found all over the island but had been exploited by the Dutch and British, as they exported it heavily towards the European countries.
When they left, the number of ebony trees had decreased dramatically; Ebony can be seen in the remnants of natural forests that exist in patches over the island but a lot of conservation efforts are done to prevent them from going extinct where they are still found. Today the Mauritius ebony is a highly protected tree as few specimens remain.
8. Malaysian Blackwood (Diospyros ebonasea)
It is a species that comes from Malaysia, which has a particular habitat within the northern and western parts of the island. It is known to have a uniform dark brown background with darker striping that typically appears as a blotchy irregular pattern.
The wood is typically used in fine luthiery and high-end furniture, often featuring striking patterns with a high natural shine when finished properly.
This wood is classified as true ebony in the Diospyros genus, and its price, qualities and rarity fully reflect that. However, its scientific name Diospyros ebonasea is, as of yet, completely unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, Malaysian Blackwood is beautiful and known to be an excellent tonewood. It is commonly used for acoustic guitars, turned objects, knife handles, and inlays.
9. Queensland ebony (Diospyros humilis)
This wood’s tree is so small that it is considered a shrub. Queensland ebony is native to Australia where it’s typically found throughout Queensland and extends into Northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
The wood has a uniform texture, has low to medium rot-resistance and is very dense and hard. It has a beautiful, bright and dark brown background color that goes well with the darker streaking which occurs occasionally. It’s typically used for woodturning and cabinetry.
10. Brazilian ebony (Swartzia panacoco)
Brazilian ebony is a rare and beautiful wood that’s found in South America particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, and the Guyanas. Brazilian ebony is used for high-class furniture, cabinet making, musical instruments, turnery, sculpture, Interior paneling, etc.
Its grain is typically straight or slightly interlocked. The wood is hard and durable with its color ranges from an olive-brown to a near-black color and can have lighter or darker streaks/markings.
The wood of the panococo or Brazilian ebony is used much like real ebony but limited due to the small size of logs.
What is the best ebony wood?
There is no such thing as the “best” ebony wood. Each piece of ebony differs in color, grain patterns, price and density, resistance to rot, etc but is generally extremely durable and high in quality. Furthermore, it isn’t easily available on the market, so whichever one you can get your hands on makes you a lucky person and is the best ebony for you.
Though if you still want a definite answer, many tradespeople prefer ebony from India because they claim that the wood from there is high in quality, denser and less brittle than others.
What is the darkest ebony wood?
Gaboon Ebony is the darkest and most sought-after wood for ebony. African Blackwood is the standard-bearer with its color being a rich, deeper black.
Is all ebony wood black?
Ebony wood can come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, yellowish-brown, pale white but they always have a distinctive striping; a combination of a dark color that looks almost black and a lighter color that can be brown or very pale yellow.
How can you tell if ebony is real?
First and foremost, make sure to always buy wood from a trusted dealer. This is a good way to ensure that you are getting quality material and aren’t being scammed. Furthermore, you may also want to learn how to identify quality ebony wood by weight, grain and color.
True Ebony wood should feel quite heavy and if you tap it should make a “ting” sound that solid dense material makes. Inspecting the grain of the wood, a close look will reveal that it has a tight, fine, typically straight grain with very distinctive markings. While most types of ebony are black in color, the grain of the wood also ranges from being lighter to darker browns, almost black.
If you wish to take it a step further you may also ask a dealer/seller to cut a small piece of wood. You can then inspect the inside, which should be dark in color, and not much lighter than the outside.
There are 10 rare ebony kinds of wood which you should know about and some additional facts. Ebony is not only beautiful but also durable and the best part is that they will last a lifetime.
Generally, the lumber isn’t reported to commonly cause severe allergic reactions, some mild common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.
Hopefully, now you know more about black wood and will be able to recognize and understand the true value of Ebony woods.