You’re certainly aware that not all wood types are the same. While common types of wood are cheap and readily available that you can buy them anytime you want, others often require massive budgets and may take weeks to find.
Indeed, a few wood species are so expensive and rare that even professional woodworkers may only come across them once or twice in their careers.
Today, we want to focus on these rare and expensive wood species. Which woods are the rarest and most expensive? More importantly, what makes them so rare and expensive? Read on to find out.
What is the Most Expensive Wood in the World?
The African blackwood is the most expensive wood in the world. A log of the African blackwood typically costs around $9,000 and a cubic meter of the wood costs as much as $13,000. However, if you’re looking for smaller pieces, it costs $100/square board foot at a minimum.
What Determines the Value of Timber?
The value of a piece of wood depends on several factors. You can check out some of the more technical factors on the Penn State Extension website.
However, The main factors once the wood is sawn and the boards made available for sale are as follows;
The durability rating of a piece of wood is based on the natural ability of the heartwood of that wood species to resist decay, insects, and pests.
Hardwoods (obtained from flowing plants) are generally more durable than softwoods (obtained from conifers).
Weather resistance defines the wood’s ability to withstand weather elements, including moisture, direct sunshine, rain, and snow.
The most weather-resistant woods are generally more expensive because they are low-maintenance and usable in outdoor applications.
Ease of working
Most of the highly-rated wood types are extremely hard, making them difficult to saw, let alone curve.
As a result, high-quality woods that are fairly easy to drill, cut, saw, and curve are often more expensive. A fine texture is one of the signs of wood that’s easy to work with.
Beautiful wood is very expensive. This is especially true if the wood is also strong and weather-resistant enough not to require painting.
An oil coat or clear stain expounds the beautiful color and grain pattern underneath, making the wood highly attractive. These aesthetic qualities often make uniquely colored and grained wood very expensive.
Finally, like everything else, it costs a fortune to own a piece of rare wood. This is one of the main reasons the African blackwood is so expensive.
Besides its excellent qualities (hardness, beauty, weather resistance, pest resistance, etc.), the African blackwood is so rare that it’s considered endangered.
Most Expensive Types of Wood
The following are thirteen of the most expensive wood types. Remember that the actual prices may be significantly higher or lower depending on your location and the grade of the wood.
African blackwood ($100+/board foot)
Scientifically known as Dalbergia melanoxylon, the African blackwood is a small, extremely rare tree only found south of the Sahara Desert in Africa and is an extremely slow-growing tree that takes decades to fully mature.
Fully mature trees are about 50 feet tall and up to 200 years old, though most trees are harvested between 70 and 8 years. So, why is African blackwood so expensive?
The African blackwood is so expensive because it is extremely difficult to work by hand or using machine tools. Moreover, the wood is already near-threatened.
The African blackwood’s heartwood is dense, fine-grained, and melodious. It’s also heavy and hard and boasts a striking deep purple color that’s almost black.
African blackwood timber is often used in medical instruments, furniture inlays, and turnery. It’s also used to make musical instruments (guitars, clarinets, oboes, etc.) and tool handles. A Janka hardness rating of 3670 lbf makes it one of the hardest hardwoods.
Pink Ivory Wood/Red Ivory ($80/board foot)
Pink Ivory, scientific name Berchemia Zeyheri is a tall hardwood tree that grows to 100-130 feet tall, with trunk diameters between 3-5 feet.
It has a density of 65 lbs/cubic foot and a Janka hardness rating of 3,230, making it one of the hardest woods in the world. A distinct, somewhat unpleasant odor makes it easily identifiable.
The main reason it’s so expensive is that it combines aesthetic beauty with strength qualities, making it the perfect wood for many woodworking projects.
A pale brownish pink to bright, almost neon pink to deep red color makes it unique. It also boasts a straight to interlocked grain pattern and a fine even texture with a natural luster. These qualities make it irresistible.
Common uses of pink ivory (also popular as red ivory) include carving and making veneers, inlays, billiard cues, chessmen, knife blades, and other turned objects.
Ebony wood (Makassar Ebony price – $65/board foot)
Ebony is a dense black/brown hardwood. It comes in several species, found in different places in the world.
For instance, the Ceylon Ebony (Diospyros Ebenum) is native to Southern India and Sri Lanka, the Gabon Ebony (Diospyros Crassiflora) to western Africa, and the Makassar ebony to Indonesia.
Whichever the species, ebony woods are dense (often heavy enough to sink in water) with a fine texture and mirror texture when finished. It’s characterized by golden yellow sapwood and deep black heartwood.
The main reason ebony wood is so expensive is that it’s a very rare tree. Why? Because it grows in very few places and takes 70-200 years to mature. In fact, it’s facing extinction.
Moreover, ebony is a beautiful wood that makes fine furniture and hard quiet (3220 Janka). It’s commonly used for carving, chess sets, and musical instruments, though you may find a few luxury cabinets made from ebony wood.
Brazilian Rosewood ($70/board foot)
Rosewood comes in many species. However, the two that stand out are the Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra), native to South America, specifically Brazil, and African Rosewood (Hegania Abyssinica), commonly found in Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea.
The Brazilian rosewood is a dark chocolate brown wood that sometimes has a light purplish or reddish-brown hue with dark streaks. It has a uniform, straight grain pattern with a coarse texture and is characterized by a rose-like scent.
Though the heights often vary, the trees typically grow to 130 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide (diameter). A Janka hardness of 2,790 lbf makes rosewoods some of the hardest hardwoods.
Brazilian Rosewood is commonly used in flooring and making musical instruments. It’s also used in turning, cabinetry, fine furniture, and veneering.
Black Ironwood ($40/board foot)
Ironwood comes from the iron tree. There are three main subspecies of the tree, namely the Lebombo ironwood (Androstachys Johnsonii), which is native to South Africa and Madagascar.
There’s also Desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) native to the Southwestern United States, and Black ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum) which is native to Southern Florida and Central America.
All three are extremely expensive. However, the extremely dense black ironwood is the most expensive, and rightly so.
The uniquely colored wood comes in various shades of reds, oranges, violets, and browns, with a demarcated pale yellow sapwood, making it the perfect choice for carving and turning projects.
It also has a characteristic straight, even grain pattern and very fine texture that guarantees luxurious furniture. A Janka rating of 3660 lbf makes it extremely durable.
Black ironwood has many applications, ranging from woodturning projects to veneering and making cabinets and furniture.
Bocote wood ($27/board foot)
Bocote, scientific name Cordia spp is a yellowish-brown hardwood with brown to almost black stripes. It’s primarily found in Mexico and Central/South America, where it grows to 65-100 feet tall with 3-5-foot wide trunks.
It has an incredibly high wood density at 53 lbs/cubic foot and is very strong at 2,010 lbf. The wood is characterized by a striking, figured grain pattern, especially on flat-sawn wood pieces, a quality that makes it highly valuable among woodworkers.
It also has a unique medium texture and naturally oily/waxy feel. You may smell a dill pickles odor when working on it.
Bocote wood is often used in flooring and fine furniture making. It’s also common in cabinetry, veneering, boatbuilding, and making musical instruments and gunstocks.
Bubinga wood ($24.99/board foot)
Bubinga wood, Guibourtia spp., is a pinkish-red to dark reddish-brown wood type native to Equatorial Guinea in Africa. It’s often characterized by dark purple or black streaks running through the heartwood.
Meanwhile, the sapwood is a pale straw color demarcated from the heartwood. It’s a unique wood with a straight grain pattern that sometimes features interlocked grains.
The texture is fine to medium, with a moderate natural luster. An unpleasant scent that disappears once the wood dries is another common characteristic.
Bubinga wood is very hard at 2,410 Janka and is commonly used in veneers, inlays, fine furniture, cabinetry, and woodturning. You may also come across Bubinga tabletops cut from extra-large natural-edge slabs.
Koa wood ($62/board foot)
Koa, or the Hawaiian Koa, scientific name Acacia koa, is a medium-sized tree that grows to 100 feet tall. It’s native to Hawaii and comes in many different colors.
However, most koas are medium golden or reddish-brown, similar to mahogany. You may also find a few koas with ribbon-like streaks of color. In short, it’s a very beautiful wood that strikes from afar.
The grain pattern is just as dramatic. Interlocked and wavy grain patterns arent too uncommon, though you may also run into curly koa grains. It has a medium to coarse texture.
Koa combines the excellent aesthetic qualities with exceptional strength (1170 Janka), making it the perfect choice for many fine woodworking applications. It’s commonly used in veneers, cabinetry, musical instruments, canoe building, and carvings.
Sandalwood ($10-$25/board foot)
Sandalwood is an aromatic, yellow-gold wood derived from a slow-growing tree native to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands. It’s a group of trees from the genus Santalum.
One of the best-known sandalwoods is the Indian Sandalwood, a small tropical tree native to southern India and Southeast Asia. It has a characteristic insect-repellant scent, which explains why it’s often used to make boxes and chests.
It’s also fairly hard at 1,680 Janka and dense at 59 lbs/cubic foot. Many woodworkers also love the yellow color and fine-grained texture.
Sandalwood is more popular for its ornamental benefits and sandalwood oil than for woodworking qualities. Nevertheless, many people use it to make furniture. Sandalwood price varies greatly depending on the species and intended use.
Agarwood, also known as Aquilaria malaccensis, is a tree native to the rainforests of southeast Asia, where some people call it the “wood of the Gods” because of its unique properties.
It’s a fragrant, dark, resinous wood mainly used in incense, perfumes, and small carvings. The usable wood is formed in the heartwood of the aquilaria trees when a type of mold infects the tree.
The heartwood is odorless before infection, with a relatively light and pale color. However, it begins to transform into a dark, aromatic resin after infection, resulting in a very dense, dark, resin-embedded heartwood with a distinctive fragrance.
The resin-embedded wood is highly valued in the south Asian cultures, where it’s used as incense, perfumes, and scented candles
Holly wood/holly trees ($60/board foot)
Holly or Hollywood (Ilex aquifolium) is the whitest of all trees. The heavy and fine-grained hardwood is often stained and polished and used to make furniture and engraving work.
Many people also use it to make walking sticks, while a few also use it for firewood as it produces very strong heat. There are many species of holly trees, including the British holly and American holly, the state tree of Delaware.
Although they differ in many ways, the trees are about 1,020 Janka-rated and pure white wood. They have a close irregular grain pattern with little or no figure. They are also dense, fine-grained, and very hard, with knots.
Hollywood lumber is used in many applications, including inlays, furniture-making, piano keys, and brooms and brushes.
Purpleheart ($40/board foot)
Purpleheart (Peltogyne pulpurea) is an incredibly strong and durable type of wood originating from the Peltogyne genus of 23 species.
The trees typically grow in the territory between Mexico and Central America (especially Brazil). They are known for their amazing grain pattern and unique color.
The internal structure of purpleheart wood consists of greying-purple hardwood that transforms to a violet purple and eventually deep purple color over time as the sun’s UV rays change the top layer of the wood.
Meanwhile, the grain pattern is straight and looks great. It has a Janka hardness rating of 2,520 lbf and is typically odorless.
Common uses of the purplewood include bridge building, making load-bearing columns, heavy outdoor construction work, and dock works.
Ziricote ($60/board foot)
Finally, Ziricote (Cordia dodecandra) is a medium-sized tree native to Central America and Mexico. It’s typically dark brown, sometimes with a green or purple hue and darker bands of growth rings.
Meanwhile, the sapwood is pale yellow. A characteristic straight to slightly interlocked grain pattern and medium to fine texture with good natural luster make it an appealing wood.
It’s a high-density wood (50 lbs/cubic foot) that’s also very strong (1,970 lbf). The wood is also naturally resistant to decay and has a mild odor.
The main reason Ziricote woods are so expensive is the stunning spider-web grain pattern with few imitators. Of course, the wood is also strong and pest/decay-resistant.
Common uses include making furniture, cabinetry, gunstocks, and musical instruments. It’s also used to make several specialty wood items.
What’s the most expensive wood for furniture?
The most expensive and luxurious wood for furniture is pink ivory, with agarwood and lignum vitae coming second and third. Pink ivory is so attractive because it’s very beautiful yet strong and durable. It’s also excellent for turning and carving, unlike harder woods like African blackwood.
What’s the rarest wood in the world?
Agarwood is arguably the rarest wood in the world. The main reason for its rarity is the depletion of the natural resource. Agarwood is listed in Appendix 11 (Potentially Threatened Species) by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This means finding agarwood for woodworking is very difficult.
Is oakwood expensive?
Yes, oakwood is expensive because it’s durable hardwood. Slow-growing hardwoods are generally more expensive than their faster-growing softwood counterparts. On the same note, though, oakwood isn’t one of the most expensive wood types in the world. It doesn’t make the top 15. Nevertheless, some oak species, such as white oak, are very expensive.
Is purpleheart wood expensive?
The main reason purpleheart is so expensive is that it is exotic and rare. Additionally, it is one of the most beautiful woods on earth. The natural beauty has seen purple heart used in many unique applications, such as making watches and eyeglass frames. Purpleheart is very strong and resistant to moisture, rotting, and decay. It also resists insects and pests.
Is native java wood expensive?
Yes, native java wood, made from old coffee trees that no longer produce coffee beans, is fairly expensive because it’s a very strong wood that is extremely pest-resistant. More importantly, it has many applications. Although most people use it to make birdhouses, you can also use java wood for flooring, furniture-making, cabinetry, and window and door frames.
Is Pink Ivory wood expensive?
Unfortunately, yes. Pink ivory is one of the more expensive wood types. The main reason is that pink ivory is rare and very beautiful. It has a pink hue that ranges from brownish-red to neon pink, making pink ivory wood furniture some of the most beautiful. Additionally, pink ivory is a dense wood that’s very stiff.
What is the most expensive wood in the USA?
The Bocote wood, which costs in the region of $32/board foot, is the most expensive wood native to the USA. It mainly grows along the west coast of North America, from British Columbia to California and down to the Mexican west coast.
Why is mahogany so expensive?
Mahogany is so expensive because of its quality and appearance. It is among the most beautiful hardwoods, with the deep reddish-brown color one of the most loved in the woodworking industry. More importantly, mahogany is strong, durable, and highly weather-resistant. Unfortunately, mahogany prices are also high because some countries limit mahogany harvesting and shipping.
What tree is worth the most money
Many experts consider paulownia wood the most value-for-money wood type. Commonly known as the princess trees, it’s a sustainable hardwood native to western China and Malaysia. A single log can cost thousands of dollars. However, some species are very affordable and thus a goldmine for woodworkers.
Is cocobolo wood expensive
Yes, cocobolo wood is expensive. Typically, it costs $50 to $65 per board foot, which is way higher than most hardwoods. Nevertheless, the wood, native to Central America, is highly prized among expensive shotgun and knife makers. Because of the beautiful orange to reddish-brown color with dark traces. It’s also strong, durable, and weather-resistant.
There you go! Now you know thirteen of the most expensive wood types globally, what makes them so expensive, and where to find them.
Often, you need to place your orders in advance to source these woods – and you may still not get them in the desired quantities or may fail to get any at all. However, when you do, they guarantee massive profits.