Rosewood is a tropical hardwood grown in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Madagascar, China and Southeast Asia. Actually, rosewood is fifty different hardwoods, 40% of which are varieties of the Dalbergia family. It is known for its tight, handsome grain, wonderful reddish-brown coloration, and the telltale sweet smell (like roses) which the fresh wood emits (sometimes for years).
Rosewood was first imported to Europe in the 1700's. It was limited in quantity, precious and, therefore, very expensive. It was used in high-end furniture, paneling, flooring and for making other decorative objets (pool cues, chess sets and jewelry). It was also used for making musical instruments, most notably guitars, marimbas and some woodwind instruments. The most sought-after variety was Brazilian Rosewood.
Alas, rosewood trees grow in limited quantity and very slowly at that. It can take decades for a tree to be large enough for use. And it can take centuries for a rosewood tree to become fully mature. High demand has led to illegal harvesting and smuggling—and soaring demand in China. Today, rosewood is the most-widely illegally-trafficked wild product in the world. Though rosewood now is protected by CITES, the illegal trade in the wood has endangered the species (and the wildlife that live amongst it).
The box shown above, made in the second half of the Nineteenth Century, is veneered in rosewood—and decorated with inlaid sawtooth marquetry. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248