Brazilian Rosewood

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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Vess
Vess

Hi Eric,
I was wondering if this mid-century table is rosewood. The seller was unsure and don’t know if you can tell by the grain pattern alone?
Thanks for your help!

mehrshad
mehrshad

Hello
I bought this wood called Brazilian rosewood. I want to know that Brazilian rosewood lt is
The seller said he was over 70 years old

thanks

Melissa Watson
Melissa Watson

1977 home- myself and my husband have a wood entry center wall. 10ft to 17ft- that spans the back of a frame center room. It has beams also. I was told the people had a interior designer when they built the home and many items are hand crafted. I look at the wood and wonder What it is, and now I am thinking maybe rosewood of some kind. Can you take a look please.

Tim
Tim

That looks like Oak to me.

Jeff
Jeff

Yes that’s oak, it is very nice oak though and you don’t usually see that much figuring in wall wood though. The strips of wood may very well be Brazilian rosewood though.

Edward Thomas
Edward Thomas

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

Harry Nyberg
Harry Nyberg

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

Ron
Ron

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… Read more »

Ron
Ron

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

Tom
Tom

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

jeff
jeff

Hi Tom,
That’s teak, very nice teak as well. Teak isn’t less than Rosewood, its just different and what you have there is really nice.
Jeff

Tony
Tony

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?

Eladio Díaz
Eladio Díaz

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.

Beto
Beto

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?

Mark Lebednik
Mark Lebednik

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?… Read more »

Eduardo Maia
Eduardo Maia

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/

Eduardo Maia
Eduardo Maia

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

Eduardo Maia
Eduardo Maia

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

tcvarlh
tcvarlh

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?

Peter
Peter

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 .

johnny guitar
johnny guitar

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.

Dave Burrows
Dave Burrows

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.
Donald Gran.

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
Dave Burrows

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… Read more »

Arcanek
Arcanek

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
Animorf Kawadias

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
slowhand15

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
Bill Irwin

… 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… Read more »

mike
mike

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

Leslie Edelman
Leslie Edelman

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

Bud Savoie
Bud Savoie

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?

Trevor Bone
Trevor Bone

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.

Leslie Edelman
Leslie Edelman

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