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Macassar ebony

Ebony is one of the non-European hardwoods and describes a black (or black-striped) wood from various trees of the genus Diospyros from the ebony family . The heartwood (without visible annual rings ) is very hard, heavy and is one of the most valuable types of wood. The mostly yellow-gray sapwood , which is usually removed immediately at the felling site by cooling off, can make up up to 70 percent of the trunk and is considered worthless and unattractive. The density of ebony depends heavily on the variety and is in the range from 0.9 to 1.3 kg / dm³. Its grinding dust can irritate the skin, eyes and lungs.


  • Cameroon ebony ( Diospyros crassiflora ) comes from Africa and is the most widespread type of ebony on the world market, often deep black in color, but mostly with gray veins. Only about 10% of the trunks show a uniform blackness. It shows a pronounced open pore structure, which is characteristic of this variety and makes it a less valued wood. Fine-pored varieties are rated significantly higher.
  • Ceylon ebony ( Diospyros ebenum ) is the best quality that is hardly available today: very hard, easy to polish, practically without noticeable pores, easy to work with, weather and termite resistant. The color of this species tended to be more dark brown. The ebony of furniture construction in the 16th – 19th centuries Century was of this kind.
  • Madagascar ebony ( Diospyros perrieri ) is rather dark brown in color, it is very fine-pored, weatherproof, termite-resistant and has a density of approx. 1.0 kg / dm³.
  • Macassar ebony, also zebra wood ( Diospyros celebica ) ( Indonesia ) is one of the colored ebony woods and is yellowish white in the sapwood, black in the heartwood with a very characteristic light yellow to brown-striped longitudinal grain; it is very dense and color fast. Its density is 1.1 to 1.3 kg / dm³. In the English-speaking world, it is also known as Coromandelholz or Marblewood.


Cabinet made of ebony with colored inlays (18th century)

Ebony is mainly used for inlays and veneers as well as for musical instruments (woodwind instruments, fingerboards, keyboards, pegs, etc.), for carvings and artistic turning. In historicism it was a popular wood for door and window handles as well as cutlery handles. Cuttings are used for the production of knitting and crochet needles or for the handles of knives.


While today the black heartwood of the tree genus Diospyros, which is native to India and Sri Lanka , is denoted by ebony , is Biblical with Hebrew. הָבְנִים (håvnîm) means a comparable wood that was exported from Nubia. Investigations of the dark wood found in Egyptian graves (Egyptian hbny = ebony; cf. English ebony) identified it as the wood of African grenadilla ( Dalbergia melanoxylon ) from the legume family. This tree species grows in the arid areas on the southern edge of the Sahara.

Ebony is mentioned in the Old Testament ( Ezek 27.15 EU ) as a Tyrian trade good  that was imported from the port city of Dedan ( LXX reads Rhodes, also the Luther translation) in southern Arabia.

Ebony in mythology

In mythology , sorcery and esotericism , ebony is often ascribed a magical effect. For example, houses with wooden stakes should not be entered by evil spirits, and weapons made of ebony should be able to wound demons. Also wands are often made from ebony, as magic items should be stored in boxes made of ebony, to retain their power. The most popular mention of ebony in the world of sagas and fairy tales is certainly the story of Snow White , whose hair was as black as ebony.

Ebony on the red list

The beauty of the wood of this plant made it widely known and popular. But the great demand for this tropical wood led to the species being included in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species in 1994 .

Of 103 species of Diospyros , most are endangered, 14 are critically endangered and 15 are critically endangered. In contrast, only 21 species that is considered to be low risk, and two not at risk as, Diospyros ekodul and Persimmon Diospyros lotus .

Web links

Commons : Ebony  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Ebony  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Ebony (PDF; 31 kB), on holzvomfach.de, accessed on November 16, 2016.

Individual evidence

  1. Striped ebony at Delta.
  2. ^ Eckhard Martin: Wood technology - specialist knowledge . Europa-Lehrmittel Verlag, Haan-Gruiten 2001, ISBN 3-8085-4018-4 , p. 88 and 89 .
  3. Ebony ( Memento from October 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ^ Search for "Diospyros" in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . Retrieved September 29, 2007.