Common Name(s): Pink Ivory, Red Ivorywood
Scientific Name: Berchemia zeyheri
Distribution: Southern Africa
Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 65 lbs/ft3 (1,035 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .90, 1.04
Janka Hardness: 3,230 lbf (14,370 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 20,020 lbf/in2 (138.1 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,193,000 lbf/in2 (15.12 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 11,630 lbf/in2 (80.2 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 7.2%, Volumetric: 12.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.5
Color/Appearance: Pink Ivory ranges in color from a pale brownish pink, to a bright, almost neon pink, to a deep red. Typically the most valuable pieces of Pink Ivory are a vibrant pink. Pink Ivory can commonly be seen with a curly or fiddleback grain pattern, further enhancing its visual impact. Sapwood of Pink Ivory tends to be pale yellow to light brown, with a somewhat gradual demarcation from heartwood. Color changes in Pink Ivory (becoming faded or dull over time) can be problematic and are not fully understood.
Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to interlocked; fine, even texture with good natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores in no specific arrangement; commonly in radial multiples of 2-4; gum/heartwood deposits common; growth rings may be distinct due to increased pore frequency in earlywood; rays visible without lens; parenchyma rare or absent.
Rot Resistance: Rated as durable to very durable regarding decay resistance, Pink Ivory is said to have excellent weathering characteristics: though it is seldom used in applications where this would be an issue.
Workability: Pink Ivory has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges, and it’s fairly difficult to work in board form. Tearout can occur on figured or quartersawn sections during planing. Pink Ivory is much more common in applications involving carving or turning, and it turns and finishes well.
Odor: Pink Ivory has a distinct and somewhat unpleasant odor when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Pink Ivory. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Carving, veneers, inlay, knife handles, billiard cues, chessmen, and other turned objects.
Comments: Pink Ivory trees are said to be both rare and valuable, and have been rumored to be “rarer than diamonds.” Other reports state that the tree is relatively common in some areas of South Africa—though large trees with straight, defect-free trunks are much more scarce. According to folklore, the tree is considered sacred to the Zulus in South Africa and is reserved for royalty.
Scans/Pictures: The bright pink/red colors shown below represent what is usually the most sought-after hues of Pink Ivory. Also, you’ll see some Pink Ivory that has been turned into an ice cream scoop handle, and has been used in the Neapolitan pattern consisting of Black Walnut (chocolate), Hard Maple (vanilla), and Pink Ivory (strawberry).