Searching for sandalwood beads, do you ever come across items with names such as Red Sandalwood, Green Sandalwood, White Sandalwood and even Black Sandalwood? I know I do. And it bugs me! Because what exactly are these wood beads/items made of?
I know the sandalwood beads I sell are from the tree Santalum Album, sometimes called East India Sandalwood or even white Sandalwood. And when people think of Sandalwood, this is what they are thinking of. It’s pretty straight forward, simple Sandalwood, smells great.
But then, people ask about Red Sandalwood, and here the confusion begins! Red Sandalwood or Red Sanders is from the Pterocarpus santalinus tree. It is an endangered species and export is illegal. It is valued for its rich red wood, but has no fragrance. Sometime, Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) is mistakenly called Red Sandalwood, but it has nothing to do with sandalwood and has no fragrance.
The next sandalwood that pops up a lot is green Sandalwood. This is actually Verawood. (Bulnesia sarmientoi) A dense green colored wood that has a very distinctive natural fragrance of Sandalwood. But it does not belong to the same family, botanically speaking. The nice thing about Verawood is that it does have a pleasant, natural smell and the beads tend to get greener with age!
The “sandalwood” that gave me the longest chase, and still, to this day, I am not sure exactly what black Sandalwood is! There are so many malas, and even more watches made from black Sandalwood. But nowhere can a scientific name be found for the elusive black
Sandalwood. My best guess, from all the trails and rabbit holes I’ve been down, is it might be some kind of Ebony of the Diospyros species if the price is right. This is an expensive wood. So, if you are not paying much for a black Sandalwood mala, then it is probably imitation Ebony made from dyed boxwood, via a process of ebonising. Ebonising wood involves applying a black stain to a cheap dense wood and polishing it to a high shine. Add a little bit of Sandalwood oil for smell and that is my guess for black Sandalwood!
If anybody has information on the identification of black Sandalwood, I would love to hear from you!
So how do you go about telling real from fake sandalwood? As far as sandalwood beads smelling different, that can be an effect of many different variables. First, sandalwood beads are carved from the wood of a tree. The tree will vary significantly on the environmental conditions it was subjected to during growth which impacts the percent and quality of oil in the heartwood (which gives the characteristic “sandalwood” fragrance). So, that can make a difference in smells! Also, which part of the tree it is cut from makes a difference, not only in fragrance but, hardness, color, etc. The typical amount of fragrant oil from the heartwood of Santalum album is 4-5% by weight. The fragrance is also affected by age. So if some beads are older than others, they will smell different.
Certainly, age with WEAR has a huge impact on fragrance, but that shouldn’t be your concern for newly purchased beads. Even in the best of circumstances, it is difficult to tell what tree a piece of wood came from just on the basis of the wood only. In botany, a tree species is not classified and described by its wood, but rather, by its leaves, bark, flowers, seeds, fruit, etc. Oftentimes, there are just not enough uniquely identifying characteristics present in the wood of each species to clearly and authoritatively differentiate it from another—not even when viewed under a microscope. Furthermore, trees occur throughout a variety of natural environments, so the wood exhibits a surprising amount of variability. For a more accurate tree identification, you’d need to look at the location of the tree, the leaves and flowers as well to arrive at an identification of Santalum album.
So it would be difficult, if not impossible to identify true East Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album, which the online shop, IndiOdyssy Shop, has the largest variety and most trusted Sandalwood available for sale) on the basis of smell alone, not forgetting that some unscrupulous people would even add fragrance to wood just to make it smell like a sandalwood!!
So about the best you can do is educate yourself on the different types of sandalwood available and the basic “general” characteristics of the sandalwood you want and buy from a supplier you know and trust. Just because they all smell different doesn’t mean they are fake or real!
Even using a compound light microscope that magnifies up to x1000, you will still only get down to the genus level. There is just too much variation in organic tissue. UV spectrometry will tell you that you have a cellulose product, but that’s about it.
However, there is positive hope on the horizon. Trees, like people, have unique DNA. The DNA is in every cell in a wood product and you can’t falsify DNA!
There are a number of companies using DNA to ensure more sustainable sourcing of timber, and building databases on plant DNA, including Santalum album. DNA testing is a sure fire way to identify any wood as genuine Indian Sandalwood, right down to the genus and species.
Other than that, the only way to know if what you are getting is real Santalum album is to purchase from someone you trust and has a good reputation for a reliable supply of genuine Indian Sandalwood.
What is Vrindavan Dust and why is it so sacred?
In the spiritual realm, the highest and holiest of places is Vrindavan. It is Vrindavan, where Krishna choose to make his supreme home. Since Krishna is holy, his home, Vrindavan is holy and therefore, the dust of Vrindavan which is no different from Krishna, is also holy.
People often want the dust of Vrindavan to be placed in a silver kavach around their neck, so no matter where they travel, they will always feel spiritually connected to God.
To shop the largest collection of sterling silver kavachas online, check out our shop at IndiodysseyShop. We can custom design the perfect necklace using sacred beads and sterling silver kavach from Vrindavan, filled with the holy Dust of Vrindavan, just for you!