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!
What the Heck is Black Sandalwood?
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!