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If the topic of the world’s most expensive woods sounds like something that would interest you, stick around for more because that is precisely the purpose of this article. Join us as we discuss the most expensive varieties of wood in today’s timber market, what makes them so special, and how the price of expensive wood is quantified.
Table of Contents
- 1 Exploring the Most Expensive Woods
- 2 What Is the Most Expensive Wood in the World?
- 3 Top 10 Most Expensive Woods
- 4 How the Price of Wood Is Determined
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Exploring the Most Expensive Woods
When we gaze upon the Earth from the camera lenses of the cosmic devices we shoot into space, we find no reason to contest the propriety of its common epithet as “The Green Planet”. Thanks to the viridescence of the chlorophyll inside the leaves of our planet’s innumerable wealth of arbor, much of its surface is covered in immense swathes of green.
These trees, incidentally, are also a key ingredient in the climatic formula that affords our little green rock its abundance of complex life. Beyond their provision of the oxygen that we need to survive, however, trees serve us tool-bearing humans with a number of other utilitarian functions. The tough and fibrous tissue that grants our Earth’s trees their structure, what we call wood, has been used by humans for millennia as a common material in the fabrication of tools and structures.
Needless to say, our relationship with wood is more than long-standing. With this comes a centuries-old understanding of the woodworking craft, the evolution of which has led us to determine that some types of wood are simply better than others – whether it be for aesthetic or utilitarian reasons. Either way, better wood means bigger bucks.
What Is the Most Expensive Wood in the World?
First and foremost, what is the most expensive wood? If you thought you were about to be subjected to a lengthy listicle with the most important details buried somewhere at the bottom, think again! Topping the charts as the priciest lumber in all the realm is Bocote, which is priced at $28.14 per board foot. Although dependent on the species, Bocote is typically among the easiest woods to work with. Bocote is not only on par with other pricy woods in terms of exoticness, aesthetic values, and strength, but the ease of use it affords makes it a superior material.
Top 10 Most Expensive Woods
Our species, and many others for that matter, has used wood extensively throughout the ages. For us, timber is an ideally sustainable and relatively affordable resource that is useful in the construction of shelters, furnishings, and many other structures. But having a keen appreciation for aesthetics and good craftsmanship, we consider certain woods as better and thus worth more value – whether the difference lies in the rarity, the look, the texture, or even the smell.
We promised the most important information first, not the omission of a list entirely. So, please bear with us as we begin listing off the top 10 most expensive woods in the world. We also promise to dispense information that would prove genuinely helpful or stimulating for woodworking enthusiasts and homeowners with a genuine interest in the topic. Without further ado, here are the world’s top ten most expensive woods.
|Pink Ivory||Berchemia zeyheri||South Africa||$6.50 per board foot|
|Sandalwood||Santalum album||India, Australia||$8.30 per board foot|
|Purpleheart||Peltogyne purpurea||Central and South America||$10.50 per board foot|
|Dalbergia||Dalbergia melanoxylon||South Africa||$13 per board foot|
|African Blackwood||Dalbergia nigra||South Africa||$13.20 per board foot|
|Bubinga||Guibourtia||South Africa||$15.30 per board foot|
|Ebony||Diospyros ebenum||India||$16.10 per board foot|
|Agarwood||Aquilaria malaccensis||India, Indonesia||$8087.50 per kilogram (35.30 oz)|
|Lignum Vitae||Guaiacum officinale||Caribbean, South America||$25.50 per board foot|
|Bocote||Cordia||Central America, West Indies, Mexico||$28.14 per board foot|
|Botanical Name||Berchemia zeyheri|
|Price||$6.50 per board foot|
Costing around $6.50 per board foot, pink ivory is one of the many unique hardwoods hailing from the generous soils of South Africa. Also grown in Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, this tree is typically exported in turning stock form, meaning it is relatively easy for woodworkers to acquire in an untreated condition provided they have the money.
The color of this wood gives a clear explanation to its namesake, with the shades most commonly ranging from a deep and warm red to a pale, slightly browned pink. The most valuable variety of this wood boasts a beautifully vibrant pink, a color that is highly sought after in the timber trade.
This incredibly durable wood sees common use in the making of veneers, musical instruments, chess pieces, inlays, pool cues, and tool handles to name but a few examples. However, on account of its susceptibility to tear-out during planing, pink ivory is not favored as a viable material for boards. On the other hand, this makes it great for carving.
|Botanical Name||Santalum album|
|Price||$8.30 per board foot|
Here is a name you are no doubt familiar with. Costing roughly $8.30 per board foot, sandalwood sees extensive use both in and outside of timber construction. This fine-grained wood is dense and carries a strongly yellow tint. Beyond its usefulness as a building or crafting material, sandalwood contains stunningly aromatic essential oils in its fibers, which can be harvested to produce fragrant perfumes and vanity products.
As of current, the primary value the modern market finds in sandalwood pertains to the usefulness of the essential oils found within. However, the high demand that comes with the popularity of sandalwood oil has led to diminishing supplies of the wood and a subsequent spike in its cost. The tree grows natively along the tropical belt of India’s peninsula. The distribution of the wood, however, occurs primarily in India’s drier forests and on two islands in Indonesia.
|Botanical Name||Peltogyne purpurea|
|Origin||Central and South America|
|Price||$10.50 per board foot|
Coming in at $10.50 per board foot, this Central and South American hardwood boasts a stiffness incomparable to most other woods on this list. The most unique and fascinating characteristic of purpleheart wood can be observed after it has been cut, at which point its colors undergo several stages of change. Initially, upon cutting, the wood appears a brownish and dull gray which will later mutate into a stunning deep purple through exposure to air. Slowly thereafter, the wood eases into a dark, purple-tinted brown. We see this wood used commonly in the making of furniture, sea vessels, flooring, and the construction of heavy structures.
Purpleheart does not only look the part but also performs well as a durable option among the world’s most exotic lumber. As mentioned, Purpleheart is incredibly stiff; this is in large part on account of the high volumes of resin it retains. This does unfortunately make the process of working with the wood much more difficult than others on this list. One thing that woodworkers absolutely despise about purpleheart is the fact that, when heated through the friction caused while cutting, the resin within can gum up and clog or jam tools.
|Botanical Name||Dalbergia melanoxylon|
|Price||$13 per board foot|
Here is another popular South African wood that grows in the green provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Sitting at $13 per board foot, Dalbergia is similar to sandalwood in that its latent mixture of fragrance-emitting oils gives it a wonderful aroma beloved by woodworkers and more than capable of filling a living space with a homely scent.
This lovely-scented wood is used most commonly in the fabrication of top-end furniture and sports equipment. Although primarily found in South Africa, its seeds have found fruitful soil across the pond in Madagascar and even as far as Asia, and Central and South America.
|Botanical Name||Dalbergia nigra|
|Price||$13.20 per board foot|
Traveling northeast of South Africa, we find these stunning blackwood monoliths soaring out of the soils of Mozambique and Tanzania. At a cost of $13.20 per board foot, this wood is among the most durable timber materials out there.
Its durability, however, makes it difficult to cut or work with in general, and it is not too uncommon for the wood to dull the blades of even the most veracious of cutting instruments. The color of the wood itself more than makes up for the issues presented to those who work with it, boasting a deep, blackened brown that adds distinction and character to any space it is used in.
Unfortunately, the abundance of beautiful woods present in Africa’s biospheres has been exploited for far too many centuries, leading to the current issue wherein the supplies of this wood are dwindling as it faces extinction.
|Price||$15.30 per board foot|
Africa is a continent often overlooked in many regards, one of which is no doubt its wealth of natural beauty, especially if this list thus far is anything to go by. At a per-board-foot cost of $15.30, Bubinga is a heavy hardwood found in Gabon, Cameroon, and along the Ivory Coast that comes in colors ranging from vibrantly pinkish reds to dark purples and black.
There are several varieties of this wood, some of which are considered to be more valuable commodities than others. The different varieties of Bubinga can be sorted according to the patterns of their grain, with the rarest of these grains costing the most. Its wide variety in colors and grains paired with a high degree of durability make Bubinga a popular choice of material in furniture-making and the fabrication of inlays
|Botanical Name||Diospyros ebenum|
|Price||$16.10 per board foot|
Although not nearly as costly as its lyrical spouse, ivory, its price of $16.10 per board foot does make ebony the 4th most expensive wood in the market right now. The fine, dark, and smooth finish of ebony wood makes it highly sought after as a material for ornamental purposes. From musical instruments such as piano keys to cabinetwork to inlays to furniture to crucifixes and so, so much more, the wood sees frequent use in projects demanding high-class aesthetic values. The high costs and difficult woodworking process associated with this wood lend to it most often only being used sparingly as a means to add detail to bigger projects.
This densely compact wood is of a dark, onyx-colored black or a deeply blackened brown color. In stark contrast to nearly any other kind of wood, ebony is too dense to allow for air particles to afford any buoyancy in water. Although ebony is typically used sparingly, woodworkers should aspire to decrease their usage of this wood even more so on account of illegal harvesting leading to it being placed under threat of extinction.
|Botanical Name||Aquilaria malaccensis|
|Price||$8087.50 per kilogram (35.30 oz)|
Coming in at a whopping $8087.50 per kilogram (35.30 oz), agarwood is not only one of the priciest but also the rarest type of wood in the world. Our documentation of our relationship with this wood dates as far back as the Abrahamic period, with it even being referenced in the Old Testament.
Formed exclusively from mold infections that affect South-East Asian trees such as the Gyrinops and Aquilaria, agarwood is a darkened heartwood that emits aromatic oils used in the production of high-end teas, perfumes, and toiletry products.
Once infected with the mold, the affected spots of the tree darken and increase in density, while also producing the aforementioned aromas. These sections of agarwood come at a high cost given their immense rarity and controlled cultivation. While top-shelf agarwood is something reserved only for the wealthiest of people, we do find ourselves with options for a lower-quality variant that costs a bit less.
|Botanical Name||Guaiacum officinale|
|Origin||Caribbean, South America|
|Price||$25.50 per board foot|
At $25.50 per board foot, Lignum Vitae is our second most expensive wood in the world. Found natively in both the South American north and the Caribbean, it is one of the most expensive hardwood options on the market. Its high costs are largely the consequence of its staggering slow growth rate of about 2 inches per annum. With such a low annual yield, its high demand has led to the skyrocketing of its prices.
Lignum vitae comes in a variety of colors, ranging from olive shades to a green-tinted, blackened brown. The high density of this wood tends to cause issues for woodworkers trying to cut through it and the task of doing so typically results in dull saw blades. Thus, lignum vitae wood is popularly retailed by the pound. But, since it is of a high density, the costs can stack up quickly.
This high density, however, lends it favors in terms of its potential applications. Very often, this dense wood is shaped into impact sports equipment and tools such as cricket bats. Its weight also makes it useful for numerous other objects and structures intended for use in windy, outdoor settings.
|Origin||Central America, West Indies, Mexico|
|Price||$28.14 per board foot|
Like any great story, we find ourselves where we started out. As discussed at the very beginning of this article, Bocote ranks #1 as the most expensive wood per board foot at $28.14. Though this ought to be determined by the specific type, Bocote is typically among the easiest exotic and expensive woods to work with. Bocote is not only on par with other pricy woods in terms of exoticness, aesthetic values, and strength, but the ease of use it affords makes it a superior material.
Found most commonly in regions of South and Central America, the Bocote is a tree that bears beautiful flowers in the springtime. Its wood is a fragrant browned yellow that becomes darker over the course of time. This durable and easily workable material and one of the most expensive woods for furniture and flooring. Even though it may not be the rarest type of wood, Bocote’s ease of use encourages a high demand that contributes to its high costs. This is the most expensive hardwood in the world.
How the Price of Wood Is Determined
The world’s most expensive wood types do not derive their costs from mere fancy. There is a list of five categories that are analyzed to determine the value of any kind of wood. These are durability, ease of working, aesthetic values, rarity, and resistance to weather. Now that we have finished discussing the top 10 most expensive wood in the world, let us cover these five categories and how they are used to figure out the pricing of these woods.
Wood of any kind is assigned a durability rating based on the strength of its heartwood, which is the name given to the center-most layers of a tree where we find the highest degrees of mechanical strength and resistance to decay and pests. The durability is measured by how well the strength of the heartwood’s natural resistance to external forces such as those aforementioned.
If the names are not enough of a dead giveaway, hardwoods blow softwoods out of the water when it comes to durability. Hardwoods are sourced from flowering plants, whereas softwoods come from coniferous trees.
Ease of Working
While many of the most durable woods in the world can cost a lot of money based on their structural rigidity alone, this durability is also what sometimes makes them difficult to work with. Dense wood can easily damage sawblades and can prove nearly impossible to curve.
Wood that is both durable and easy to work with in that it can be easily cut, drilled, curved, or sawed is thus considered more valuable. A pro tip on how to determine whether or not a wood is easy to work with is to inspect its texture. If you find that the texture of the wood is fine, chances are likely that it will prove to be easier to work with.
This category is an easier one to understand, especially for any philistines reading with no prior woodworking experience. If it looks good, the price should correspond. If it looks great, well, it will cost you even more. Just as is the case with many other things, beauty comes at a cost. Extra points go to woods with enough durability and resistance to weather to negate the need for painting.
To further bring out the stunning patterns of the grain and the vibrancy of the colors in attractive woods, clear stains, and oil coatings do wonders. Nevertheless, you should expect to pay more for your wood the prettier it is.
What makes the African blackwood the most expensive hardwood and counts it among the most expensive woods for furniture is its scarcity. The lower the supply of a wood, the higher its costs can be expected to reach.
The one tragic thing to consider, however, is that the rarity of a wood directly correlates with dwindling supplies caused by deforestation and illegal harvesting. Before you buy a rare wood, you should first make sure that it is not on an endangered species list and that it was sourced ethically.
Resistance to Weather
As the name suggests, this involves the quantifying of a wood’s ability to endure exposure to climatic factors such as sunlight, moisture, rain, and shifting temperatures. If a wood is highly weather-resistant, its possible applications for outdoor projects increase tenfold, leading to higher prices.
We thank you for joining us on this arboreal journey and hope you have enjoyed learning about the most expensive wood types. If you have been on the lookout for information regarding the most expensive wood variety available worldwide, we hope that this article has proven itself to be of assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Most Expensive Wood?
Bocote is the most expensive wood. It takes the cake as the priciest timber on the market given that its rarity, beauty, and durability are matched by how easy it is to work with.
What Is the Rarest Wood?
Listed as an endangered species, sandalwood is the rarest wood found worldwide. After decades of over-harvesting this popular resource, its dwindling supplies can no longer match the incessant demand which has led to the skyrocketing of the price points associated with sandalwood. It is important to understand that purchasing rare woods on the verge of extinction is philosophically adjacent to poaching endangered animals. If you cannot verify that a rare wood comes from credible sources, you should not purchase it.
What Makes Wood Expensive?
The high costs of top-quality wood are determined by factors. These include durability, ease of working, aesthetic properties, rarity, and resistance to weather damage.