Pink Ivory (Berchemia zeyheri)

Pink Ivory (Berchemia zeyheri)

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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; medium pores in no specific arrangement, nuymerous; commonly in radial multiples of 2-4; gum/heartwood deposits common, though not easily seen with lens; growth rings may be distinct due to increased pore frequency in earlywood; narrow to medium rays visible without lens; parenchyma not visible with lens.

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.

Pricing/Availability: Reputed to be a scarce commodity, Pink Ivory is typically very expensive, usually on par with Gaboon Ebony: another pricey African import.

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.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

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).

Pink Ivory (sanded)

Pink Ivory (sanded)

Pink Ivory (sealed)

Pink Ivory (sealed)

Pink Ivory (endgrain)

Pink Ivory (endgrain)

Pink Ivory (endgrain 10x)

Pink Ivory (endgrain 10x)

Pink Ivory (turned)

Pink Ivory (turned)

 
  • Nate

    I have worked with this wood and it is a ***** to work with…
    The grain is very sharp and pointy and interlocked… This wood can bend in small sliver live crazy. It is the most non-straight grain to work with ever!!! Fair warning: Ammonia will bleach the pink color out of this wood…

    • Ernie Gordon

      If you want to see a masterpiece, do a search on Amazon for Dennis Capplinger’s Gospel Banjo book. The banjo on the cover has a solid pink ivory wood neck, and the resonator is maple with pink ivory veneer on top. Quite striking. The neck wood came from Eisenbrand Exotic Hardwoods back when Art was in charge; the veneer was from Certainly Wood. It sounds as awesome as it looks.

  • Daniel Ewers

    Not experienced with this wood, wanted to make a tobacco pipe from a piece, have heard some woods are toxic in this regard, was hoping for some information. Thanks Dan

    • Robert Flowers

      Toxicity should be minimal, as the color is derived from tannin. The density should help it from charring thru like softer woods, but you might have to be clever and line it with a briarwood dowel, bored out.

  • Mike

    Just turned some Pink Ivory on the lathe. Turns beautifully; tight, dense grain that polishes well. The shavings and spindle were the color bubble gum, pencil eraser or Pepto-Bismol.

  • Jeffery Brooke

    Love working with Pink Ivory, just made a pen/stylus combo for my daughter about 2 hours ago. So far I have only turned Pink Ivory so I have no experience in working with it other than turning. Given the dimensions Pink Ivory is generally available in, inlays, turning or carving is about all it is suitable for. I not only like the look of Pink Ivory, it has a really good feel to it when it’s nicely polished up.

  • Brandon Borrillo

    Made a comb out of this wood recently. Sanded the surface up to 2000 grit, the surface feels like glass, and looks fantastic even without a finishing coat. Definitely tricky to cut thin slices of this wood without getting a “tear-out” as mentioned. I broke a tooth on the comb but super glue fixed this seamlessly -probably because the wood is very dense and hard.

  • Robert Flowers

    I am having limited success growing Berchemia zeyheri from seed in Southern Arizona. At 5 years old, the bottom 6 inches is only as thick as a broom handle, and will only be sapwood for about 20 years. At 4 years, it produced its first flowers and viable seeds. It does not like frost, but will probably stand the desert winters once it is old enough to have thick bark. Ground squirrels gnaw the bark off saplings..I have been keeping them potted, and bringing indoors through the winters. It keeps its leaves over the winter indoors..