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Title: Rosewood  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: ESP EX, Fender Performer Bass, Gibson Melody Maker, Gibson Everly Brothers Flattop, Gibson J-160E
Collection: Furniture, Plant Common Names, Wood
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining but found in many different hues.


  • True rosewoods 1
  • Other rosewoods 2
  • Uses 3
  • Madagascar rosewood logging controversy 4
  • References 5

True rosewoods

All genuine rosewoods belong to the genus Dalbergia. The pre-eminent rosewood appreciated in the Western world is the wood of Dalbergia nigra which is now a CITES-listed endangered species. It is best known as Brazilian Rosewood, but also as Bahia Rosewood. This wood has a strong sweet smell, which persists over many years, explaining the name rosewood.

Another classic rosewood comes from Dalbergia latifolia known as (East) Indian Rosewood or sonokeling. It is native to India and is also grown in plantations elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Madagascar rosewood (Dalbergia maritima), known as bois de rose, is highly prized for its red color but is overexploited in the wild. Despite a 2010 moratorium on trade, illegal logging continues on a large scale.[1]

Throughout S.E. 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 sissoo is also a rosewood species from India and Bangladesh. It is extremely dense, strong, and durable. It is stronger than teak and is comparable in price. The valuable timber is used for quality furnishings.

Some of the world's rosewood comes from Dalbergia retusa, also known as the Nicaraguan rosewood or as palisander.

Several species are known as Guatemalan Rosewood or Panama Rosewood: D. tucerencis, D. tucarensis, and D. cubiquitzensis.[2][3]

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.

Other rosewoods

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 advertisements from Asia is Pterocarpus indicus sold as New Guinea Rosewood (and related species).

Although its wood bears no resemblance whatsoever to the true rosewoods, the Australian Rose Mahogany (Dysoxylum fraserianum, family Meliaceae) is sometimes also called "rosewood" due to the strong smell of roses from freshly cut bark.[4]


All rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, being suitable for guitars (specifically, the fret boards on electric and acoustic guitars are often made from rosewood), marimbas, recorders, turnery (billiard cues, fountain pens, black pieces in chess sets, etc.), handles, furniture, 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.

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.[5]

Madagascar rosewood logging controversy

In 2009 controversy arose surrounding the intensification of rosewood logging in Madagascar's national parks.[6] Logging was linked to criminal syndicates that laundered rosewood logs through Reunion and Mauritius before transporting timber to China for processing.[7] Finished wood and furniture was then shipped to Europe and the United States. In November 2009 Gibson Guitar Corporation in Nashville was raided by federal authorities for its alleged use of illegally sourced rosewood.[8][9] The case was settled on August 6, 2012, with Gibson admitting to violating the Lacey Act and agreeing to pay a fine of $300,000 in addition to a $50,000 community payment. Gibson also forfeited the wood seized in the raids, which was valued at roughly the same amount as the settlement.[10] In March 2010 the Malagasy government finally announced a ban of the rosewood export for a period between 2 and 5 years.


  1. ^ "In search of Madagascar's rosewood mafia".  
  2. ^ "Panama Rosewood Sets". Garnut Guitars. 
  3. ^ "TAXA Wood Knowledge Base". 
  4. ^ Boland, D.J.; et al. (1984). Forest Trees of Australia (Fourth ed.). CSIRO Australia. p. 120. 
  5. ^ "Wood Allergies and Toxicity".  
  6. ^ "Investigation into the Illegal Felling, Transport and Export of Precious Wood in Sava Region, Madagascar" (PDF).  
  7. ^ Gerety, Rowan Moore (16 December 2009). "Major international banks, shipping companies, and consumers play key role in Madagascar's logging crisis". News. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  8. ^ Lind, J.R. (17 November 2009). "Feds raid Gibson offices". Nashville Post. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  9. ^ Wood, E. Thomas (12 August 2010). "What the feds found at Gibson". Nashville Post. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Black, R. (6 August 2012). "Gibson settles discord on timber". BBC News. Archived from the original on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
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