The beauty of colonial furniture mainly lies in its historical background, its uniqueness and above all the quality of the craftsmanship and the materials used.
Local craftsmen used exotic hardwoods such as rosewood, mahogany and satinwood, because these were particularly suited to the climate. Unlike softer woods, like pine, that tended to warp in the tropical humidity, these woods stood up to the most extreme conditions and were readily available.
Following a selection of wood that was used for the production of colonial furniture in India during the 18th and 19th century.
Indian rosewood is historically one of the main rosewoods of commerce and was traded alongside Brazilian rosewood for hundreds of years. Rosewood is a very dark brown hardwood with an almost black wavy grain. The name comes from the scent released when the wood is cut. It is used for inlaid decoration and veneer, and was used for making solid furniture from the early 19th century onwards.
Mahogany is a reddish-brown wood, and it has been used for making furniture since about 1730. The timber was imported from the West-Indies. It is very strong, seasons quickly and does not tend to warp and split, is seldom attacked by woodworm, and is a good timber to work. Mahogany could be obtained in large enough pieces to make large table-tops without joining, which had not been possible before, and not only does it take a pleasing smooth finish but is excellent for carving. It is therefore not hard to understand why, once it had been introduced, it quickly became popular and stayed for long the principal timber used in cabinet-making.
Satinwood was the most beautiful and highly valued wood used in the latter part of the 18th century and is perhaps the most widely known of decorative timbers. It is a highly figured, close-grained, hard, durable wood native to Ceylon and the East Indies. It is light yellow to golden brown in color with a lustrous satin-like quality and has an excellent finish. One other characteristic of satinwood is its aroma. When cut and worked it smells like coconut oil. Satinwood was an expensive timber, and it was used, on the whole only for special pieces for wealthy clients. It was frequently used in combination with ebony.
A black wood of very close grain and heavy in weight which was popular for veneering at the end of the 17th century. Later it was used for inlaid decoration and especially for the dark tines in stringing.