Procuring Pink Ivory wood
(Rhamnus zeyheri) these days is a lot easier than it used to be.
Known as the "royal wood" of the Zulus, only full-fledged members of the Zulu Kingdom's royal family were officially allowed to possess it back in the 1800s. To drive home the idea of this exclusivity — as well as to increase demand abroad — some unknown, 19th-century marketing guru spread the rumor that any non-royal entity (foreigners included) found in possession of Pink Ivory would face the death penalty. Naturally, the wood has been highly sought after by woodworkers around the world ever since. (Nothing sells like the threat of capital punishment!)
Pink Ivory is especially favored nowadays by wood carvers and turners, and is typically used to make smaller-sized items such as bowls, pool cue butts, chess pieces, golf putters, knife handles, DWF pens and game calls; it is also popular for inlay and marquetry work. Pink Ivory blanks are usually on the narrower side because the trees — found predominantly in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique — rarely produce trunks wider than a foot in diameter (the trees reach heights of about 20 to 40 feet). Exotic Wood Group's stock comes primarily from South Africa, where special permits are required to harvest the wood.
The startling color of Pink Ivory is produced by bands of tissue in the wood's growth rings. The heartwood ranges in color from a faint, light pink to a vibrant, almost red. The sapwood is yellowish.
It should be noted that, like many beautiful things in life, the attractiveness of Pink Ivory can be somewhat fleeting. Over time, the pink color tends to become a duller, brownish shade. How long this process takes depends on the particular piece of wood and how much it's exposed to sunlight.
With an average specific gravity of about 0.90. It carves and turns well, although sharp tools are essential. The wood also polishes beautifully.