How do you know your father’s your father…?
Because your mother told you so!
Want irrefutable proof…?
Better get DNA testing!
Same goes for Sandalwood (Santalum album)!
Most people judge the authenticity of Sandalwood on whether it smells the way they think Sandalwood should smell.
Doesn’t smell like Sandalwood…must be fake?
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.
It’s all in the botany
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.
Or it does smell like Sandalwood…gotta be real?
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!
Getting all scientific
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.
There’s hope in plant DNA
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.