Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)

Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)

Common Name(s): Brazilian rosewood

Scientific Name: Dalbergia nigra
Distribution: Brazil

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall,
                 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .68, .84

Janka Hardness: 2,790 lbf (12,410 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 19,570 lbf/in2 (135.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,020,000 lbf/in2 (13.93 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 9,740 lbf/in2 (67.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 2.9%, Tangential: 4.6%,

                  Volumetric: 8.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.6

Color/Appearance: Brazilian rosewood can vary in color from a darker chocolate brown to a lighter purplish or reddish brown, with darker contrasting streaks. The black streaks can sometimes form a unique grain pattern that is sometimes referred to as "spider-webbing" or "landscape," very similar to ziricote. Lighter yellowish sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

Grain/Texture: Brazilian rosewood has a uniform, medium to coarse texture with medium-sized open pores. The grain tends to be straight, but can occasionally be interlocked, spiraled, or wavy.

Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as very durable to decay resistance, and is also resistant to insect attack.

Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, though it may have a slight blunting effect on cutting edges. Brazilian rosewood turns, and finishes well, though it can sometimes be difficult to glue due to its high natural oil content.

Odor: Has a distinct, rose-like scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Brazilian rosewood has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Likely to be very expensive, and from questionable sources. Trade of Brazilian rosewood is highly regulated, and sales are generally limited to reclaimed or pre-existing pieces of lumber.

Sustainability: Brazilian rosewood is listed in CITES Appendix I, which is the most restrictive appendix, and also includes finished products made of the wood. It is the only species whose listing supersedes the already restrictive genus-wide restriction on all Dalbergia species listed in appendix II. It is also listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Veneer, fine furniture, cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments (acoustic guitars, piano cases, etc.), turned objects, and other small wooden specialty items.

Comments: Brazilian rosewood, like other exploited hardwoods such as Cuban mahogany or teak, has earned worldwide fame. Historically, it has perhaps been the species most frequently associated with the term "rosewood," and with its strength, hardness, stability, beauty, and acoustic properties, it's easy to see why Dalbergia nigra has been used for everything from flooring to xylophone keys.

Due to the high demand and limited supply of Brazilian rosewood, and its continued exploitation in recent decades, it has been listed in the most restrictive category of endangered species: CITES Appendix I. Not only is the lumber restricted from being imported or exported from country to country, but even finished products made of Brazilian rosewood may not cross international boundaries.

Because of these heavy (yet justifiable) restrictions, several substitutes from the Dalbergia genus have been used in recent years, such as East Indian rosewood, Honduran rosewood, and cocobolo; though perhaps the closest rosewood in terms of color and appearance may be Amazon rosewood (Dalbergia spruceana)—another hard-to-find and pricey rosewood.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. (You will note that the color over time tends to become very dark, almost black. This is partially due to the old age of most pieces, often collected before the 1992 CITES restriction.)


Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) 

Watch video of wood finish being applied.

Identification: See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain 10x)

Brazilian rosewood (endgrain 10x)

Brazilian Rosewood (endgrain)

Brazilian rosewood (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: diffuse porous

Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples

Vessels: medium to very large, very few; dark brown deposits occasionally present

Parenchyma: diffuse-in-aggregates, vasicentric, sometimes weakly aliform and/or unilateral, and banded (marginal)

Rays: narrow, normal spacing

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Most commonly confused with East Indian rosewood, the two can usually be separated on the basis of pore density: Brazilian rosewood has roughly half as many pores per square surface area (see related article for more info).

Notes: Unlike most Dalbergia species, D. nigra's heartwood extractives are not water-soluble, and a water extractives fluorescence test will produce no fluorescent response.

> Hardwoods > Fabaceae > Dalbergia > Related species

Camatillo
(Dalbergia congestiflora)

Guatemalan rosewood
(Dalbergia cubilquitzensis)

Laotian rosewood
(Dalbergia lanceolaria)

Huanghuali
(Dalbergia odorifera)

Palo escrito
(Dalbergia paloescrito)

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49 Comments

  1. Edward Thomas October 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,

    I wanted to know if pocket knife manufactures that still use Brazilian Rosewood for there handles use
    “new” cut Brazilian Rosewood or reclaimed or pre-existing pieces of lumber? Thanks

  2. Harry Nyberg April 23, 2018 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Hi
    Wonder if this is a pies of Dalbergia Nigra, I have an old stock of veneer that if the old documents is right, so it is ca 180m2 Brazilian Rosewood and 2 plank 30 x 200mm x 3900mm of the same i think.
    Hälsn Harry
    Sweden

    • Eric April 23, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      It certainly looks like it could be the genuine article. Pore size and density look about right; does have a strong floral smell when being worked? Interesting to also note the dark oxidation that appears to have crept perhaps 1/8″ into the surface of the board — you can also see how dark the old sample that I have pictured as the representative of this species is as well.

  3. Ron March 31, 2018 at 11:13 am - Reply

    It smells EXACTLY like that old baseball card gum we used to get..when sanded…and also just on the face. I knew it was brw when the guy opened the shed..i smelled it before seing it..i said ill take it before seeing it. 7’2″ 12″ wide 5/4. For the pricely sum of $100. About 3/4 of the piece is useable and there are some deep gum, check split…which is very common for this species. I have a few pieces of this stuff and a little pile of 10×8 veneer squares…the big piece, pictured, i had to cut in hslf to grt home…its the oldest growth piece i have…the resin is thick :). The good stuff smells of baseball card gum, without gaving to sand. If u have to dand it to smell it, my guess is its a younger harvest. Nowwhat to do with tnis stuff? The big piece gas been ib canada since 1960! A smaller piece…stamped “PB”. I believe an identifier used in the industry…”palisander de brasil” Its a chocklaty brown with darker veins, sweet smell but not as good as the 12″ wide pcs.

  4. Ron March 31, 2018 at 10:59 am - Reply

    This is Brazilian Rosewood, dalbergia nigra….half is sanded the other half is 58 yrs oxidized. Beside it is dalbergia decipularis..tulipwood.

  5. Tom March 25, 2018 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Eric,

    An online ad for this side table states it’s made of teak but if so, the grain patterns seem unusual to me. Since it’s a mid century piece (Danish style), I’m wondering if it might perhaps be rosewood? I love following your website replies! Thanks,

    Tom

    • Eric March 26, 2018 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      Very hard to tell from the picture, but I think I can make out in the lower center portion an area near the growth ring that appears to show the pores arranged along the growth boundary (ring porous), which would corroborate with the teak ID. (Most rosewoods are diffuse porous.) The color is also not outside the realm of possibility for teak.

  6. Tony March 19, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    My neighbor cut his tree down and so I asked if he knew what kind of tree it was. He said it was jacaranda. I had never heard of it so I looked it up here and it said that it was Brazilian rosewood. It looked light compared to the Brazilian rosewood I’ve seen (mostly on hand planes). Is this jacaranda and is jacaranda also known as Brazilian rosewood?

  7. Eladio Díaz February 8, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Hello.
    I have a snooker cue in ash, ebony and another wood I can’t identify. Watching your webpage I suspect it can be some kind of rosewood. I send you one picture. I could send you more pictures, if required.

    I’m very glad of my cue and, if it is in rosewood or even cocobolo I will be more glad, if possible.

    Apologies for my bad english. I’m Spanish.

    Thanks a lot for you stay there.

    • Eric February 8, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      It does look like some type of Dalbergia (rosewood) species. Is it possible to get a clear, closeup picture of the endgrain? It can be tough to ID finished pieces, but seeing the end might help.

      • Eladio Díaz February 9, 2018 at 3:54 am - Reply

        Hello, Eric. Thanks a lot for your answer.
        I send you a picture. The cue’s butt end (where the endgrain is visible) is often very damaged by the use. At this moment, I have not a superfine sandpaper to fix it. I hope the picture be not too bad.

        If you want, I could send an infinite number of pictures. Have I said I’m very glad of my cue…?

        Thanks a lot to be there.

        • Eric February 10, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

          Hmm, well I don’t want to steer you wrong, and it’s hard to tell from just one endgrain photo, but that endgrain is somewhat unusual, at least for Brazilian rosewood. I can see pretty extensive and uniform parenchyma bands, which isn’t too common for Dalbergia nigra. It could be some other type of rosewood from Asia or Africa (such as Madagascar rosewood), but I will say that the parenchyma bands look very uniformly spaced, which is unusual for rosewoods and, at least to me, points more to Swartzia species such as Katalox or Wamara.

      • rod watson March 11, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

        hi eric, i am repairing a 60 year old Portuguese trestle table ,30 inches wide x 79 inches long . i’m trying to i.d. the wood used in the manufacturing. these are snaps of one of the leg frames ,it’s not a heavy wood,sands easily .thickness is 2 1/4 inches. the table was left out in the elements for a couple years. that means a huge amount of moisture exposure here in vancouver b.c. could you give me any ideas?

        not sure if all photo’s will show up can send them via email

        • Eric March 12, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

          It looks like a type of ring porous hardwood, but I simply can’t tell from the picture, can you get some closer pics? Also, a good shot of the endgrain would be helpful if possible. The most likely candidate at this point would probably be oak.

  8. Beto February 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Greetings!
    I came across some lumber that was supposedly used for ship ballast. It is apparently quite old, though I have no idea when ships used exotic hardwood for ballast. I have been told this lumber could be at least 70-80 years old. I have several pieces I was hoping someone here could help me to identify.

    It was suggested to me that it may be some type of rosewood, but I just can’t tell based on photos I have seen online. Anyone have any idea?

    • Eric February 8, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      I’d say, just from an initial impression, that it is HIGHLY unlikely to be Brazilian Rosewood. Need to see a clear, closeup, finely sanded picture of the endgrain to get a better idea on ID.

      • Beto February 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm - Reply

        Thanks again Eric. I will try to cut the endgrain and post up a photo later.

      • Beto February 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

        Here i the end grain, not as finely sanded sorry. Next post a ribbed a little oil to see it better.

        • Eric February 10, 2018 at 4:55 pm - Reply

          It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of it, but I will say that initially it looks like the pores are way too numerous to be Brazilian rosewood. They are very infrequent and less densely packed in Dalbergia nigra.

      • Beto February 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

        Oiled

        • Ethan April 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

          I have some pedra that looks exactly like that, unfortunately there’s not a lot of good pictures in this database, it if you google it, that might help

  9. Mark Lebednik January 1, 2018 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I have a little old growth lumber left over from a bank job. My Father and I were custom millwork manufacturers and one of the jobs we did in the late 60s was entirely Brazilian Rosewood. We had a log flown over and Diamond Hill Plywood in Darlington, SC laid the veneers for us, book matched, sequenced matched with integral door panels and all solid trim Brazilian Rosewood. Back in the 60’s, even then, the wood was hard to come by. Board lengths were hardly over 6 or 7 feet long. I wonder what the board foot price is today? I have a couple pcs. really nice, wide and long, and some run as 5″ crown mould… pretty stuff.

  10. Eduardo Maia April 4, 2017 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    A guitar maker (Frankie Montuoro) claims to be using a wood very similar
    do Brazilian Rosewood called “Conscia Silva”. I live in Brazil and
    never heard about any wood with that name. Does anyone here knows what
    wood is that? Here’s the article where the Luthier talks about that
    wood: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/columns/bench-press-frankie-montuoros-bench-copies/

    • ejmeier April 5, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

      I have no idea; this is one of the pitfalls of using common names instead of including a latin name, as they very frequently can get confused and provide no help in finding the exact wood species.

      I will say that the statement “belongs to the same plant genus as Dalbergia nigra with respect to being in the Legume and Fabaceae family” is very misleading. I am guessing he just got his terminology wrong when he said “genus” because later he clarifies that it is actually the “family” (Fabaceae) that he was talking about. This plant family includes hundreds of genera and literally tens of thousands of widely differing species. To say that it belongs to the same family as Brazilian Rosewood is just a small step away from saying that it belongs to the same family of plants that produces trees that make wood. It doesn’t narrow it down much.

  11. Eduardo Maia October 1, 2014 at 1:20 am - Reply

    I have a wood plank of approximately 40 years old (38 X 16 X 1,5 inches), that looks very similar to Brazilian Rosewood. It was part of my grandfather’s woodworking workbench. Anybody see any similarities with Brazilian Rosewood? By the way, i live in Brazil. Here’s some photos (the photo with the scale is in 0,5mmm and the diferences in color are because of the camera flash) :
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00111_zpsfd943469.jpg
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00110_zps3d312092.jpg
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00108_zpsbf8038c7.jpg
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00095_zpse4279598.jpg
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00086_zps684b21e0.jpg
    https://i1007.photobucket.com/albums/af193/edumaia/IMG_00064_zps7a5e5cb8.jpg

    • ejmeier October 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      More than likely not Brazilian Rosewood. From the endgrain, the pores appear to be too small and too numerous.

      If you’ve sanded it or worked with it, have you noticed any distinct scent? I don’t know if you’ve smelled rosewood before, but it’s a memorable scent.

      • Eduardo Maia October 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm - Reply

        The wood dust from the plank have a very pleasant scent, but i never smelled rosewood before.

        • Arcanek July 29, 2015 at 2:21 pm - Reply

          Brazilian rose has an almosy chocolate like sweetness to it.

    • Eduardo Maia October 4, 2014 at 12:03 am - Reply

      A professor from a Brazilian University (ESALQ) identified it as Imbuia.

      • ejmeier October 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm - Reply

        Makes perfect sense. Imbuia also has a distinct scent.

  12. tcvarlh June 3, 2014 at 4:17 am - Reply

    I have been offered a pipe made from this (supposedly) Being as the wood has a high oil content Does anyone think that smoking it may not be healthy?

  13. Peter May 30, 2014 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Unfortunately these trees are quite tender when young , they need to be grown in places of high humidity , and shelter from direct light, the forest floor is a dark and moist and a constant 23 degrees centigrade . In other words , if you want this tree you have to supply the forest .

  14. johnny guitar January 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    C’mon man!, even if there is some kind of shortage, just plant more trees! It’s not like it’s gold or silver – it is a renewable resource for crying out loud, you plant the seedling and it grows into big tree, chop down tree, make guitars, plant more! Repeat.

    • ejmeier January 27, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Not exactly. It’s more like: plant more trees, and your GRANDKIDS will chop them down. Not exactly a practical solution, especially since there are other tree species that can be harvested much sooner, and will be more financially profitable.

    • Dave Burrows April 6, 2014 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Right. Plant more trees. That sounds simple enough. How many have you planted by the way? But until disadvantaged people in developing countries are no longer exploited, threatened, even murdered for the wood you want for your guitars, maybe you could do the planet a favor, and consider sustainable alternatives for crying out loud.

      • Donald Gran. April 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm - Reply

        AMAZING! Thanks for setting the stupid ones straight. These trees are also very environmentally specific. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by city growth. Its almost impossible to effectively bring back the population of these trees within the foreseeable future. However I would like to think that some day they’ll be back to their full strength and everyone can responsibly enjoy this beautiful wood.

        • Dave Burrows April 19, 2014 at 9:29 am - Reply

          City growth. Is that the sanitized euphemism for rain forest destruction these days? But, I wouldn’t say stupid; I’d say self-involved, reckless, irresponsible, even naive, but not stupid. You’re correct about their environmental specificity, and that can be said for many of if not most of the endangered species of flora & fauna. I also agree that bringing these trees back to sustainable populations will be difficult, and maybe impossible.

          Their endangerment is partially caused by complex economics of impoverished nations who need every bit of export money they can get; any government can put a stop to the export of any part of any species whether newly harvested, or antique. (See CITES, Appendix iii https://www.cites.org/eng/app/appendices.php, and if the species is in appendix i, then no part of it may legally cross any border anywhere in the world.)

          It’s also partially caused by woodworkers & collectors who will pay increasingly exorbitant prices for rare woods, especially the ebonies of the genus Diospyros, and the true rosewoods of the genus Dalbergia, but there are other species, too, and they are almost all familiar species; wenge, Peruvian walnut & zebrawood are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (https://www.iucnredlist.org/search). As hardwood species become rarer, their price naturally increases. As it does, people’s lives are increasingly put at risk.

          In Madagascar where both ebony & rosewood are legally
          harvested, for example, a man was murdered while trying to protect them from illegal
          logging practices. He is now considered a martyr, and candlelight vigils are held where he was killed. In Cambodia, a 14 year old girl, and a journalist
          were killed for trying to safeguard endangered trees. These stories
          are becoming less isolated, and they are recent.

          The deforestation of their habitat in the name of development for the sake of the profit of a very few is stealing from the rest of us something from which we can never recover; the flagrant, careless extinction of who-knows-how-many species. This has never before happened in the history of the planet, and no one knows how it will affect our future however certain of their own soothsaying – on either side – they may be.

          Johnny’s fault isn’t that he wants the prestige and/or pleasure that comes with owning, or perhaps building beautiful guitars that some argue have tonal qualities unlike any other woods. It’s that he seems to think the problem of their endangerment can be so easily solved. That’s a problem because it allows him not to give a shit, and thus, to continue contributing to their endangerment. How about you? I can’t tell where you’re coming from. Do you give a shit?

          • Arcanek July 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm

            i don’t think that the deforestation is due to city growth. And the main culprits in culling D nigra were the Japanes, who used helicopters to deforsetremote, hard to access locations.

      • Animorf Kawadias September 11, 2016 at 3:28 am - Reply

        Yeah do not think you understand, how long it takes for a tree to reach maturity. Even if it’s a fast growing tree, which Brazilian rosewood is not. The time to plant a Brazilian rosewood tree, was 20 years ago. And still would not have the quality of a Brazilian rosewood tree that was say 500 or more years old. As at 20 years it would be inferior to an older tree.

    • slowhand15 May 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      johnny guitar doesn’t know where they grow……
      Dalbergia nigra needs a habitat of wet and damp (hygrophilous) forest on rich soils to thrive. It is only found in the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil, from southern Bahia to Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.
      It struggles anywhere else.

      • Bill Irwin June 1, 2017 at 10:52 am - Reply

        … Dalbergia Nigra, also known as a Jacaranda, is prevalent all over Southern California, they are purple flowering trees that you would not want to park your car under. They are also growing in Japan. There is no difference between Brazilian and non Brazilian wood, which is a HUGE issue for luthiers. Back in the 1970s, Martin made about 50 guitars using Jacaranda, and those who owned Brazilian Rosewood Martins screamed so loud, they never made another. Yamaha is the only large guitar maker that currently builds using Jacaranda (they have never built a Brazilian Rosewood Guitar), and they are very specific in their Jacaranda description. There is plenty of Jacaranda (typically younger trees), very little Brazilian Rosewood, same genus, same wood, same characteristics, but grow in different areas. I am lucky enough to own a guitar made with Brazilian Rosewood, it has Emerald Green streaks when lit up with a flashlight.

  15. mike November 29, 2013 at 7:29 am - Reply

    that looks like dalbergia nigra. And it is definitely veneer. I recently saw a piece I made in 1981 & the colour had lightened, similar to your picture

  16. Leslie Edelman September 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Can anyone tell me if this is rosewood, and if so, what kind??
    No one seems to be able to tell me!

  17. Eric March 15, 2013 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Bud,
    I think they may have been referring to the allergic properties of the wood coming into contact with your mouth. It’s all relative I suppose, depending on the amount of risk you’re willing to take with contacting the wood on a regular basis. It’s a very similar concern to that of using rosewood for mouthpieces to woodwind instruments.

  18. Bud Savoie March 15, 2013 at 3:56 am - Reply

    As a pipe smoker, I have seen several pipes made of rosewood listed on ebay. On a pipe-smokers list, a woodworker said that rosewood pipes should never be smoked, due to irritant and allergic qualities. The type of rosewood these pipes are made of is never specified in the offerings; but at least two oldish pipe books sing the praises of rosewood pipes, calling the smoking effect “hypnotic” and “soporific.” One of the books specifies the Brazilian rosetree, or “palissandre” in French. Is this hazardous to smoke? Should “rosewood” pipes be avoided?

  19. Trevor Bone January 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Cocobolo is well known for its beautiful coloration. Even though i’ve only worked with cocobolo twice.

    You may try to smell it, most rosewoods have they’re own distinct smell.

  20. Eric June 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Looks like Cocobolo to me, at least in terms of the color and pattern. Is it real wood, and is it solid? Might want to check out: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-identification-guide/

  21. Leslie Edelman June 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Can anyone tell me if this is rosewood, and if so, what kind??
    No one seems to be able to tell me!

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