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Ebony Beads from Mali - looking for more info
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Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
12/02/2016, 12:24:51

I'd love to know more about these beads - I find it intriguing that they are the same short oblate size & shape as a lot of phenolic resin beads that are sourced in the same general area - Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, etc.

The "Gabon ebony" wood is from the rainforest areas in West Africa, to the south of Mali - Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, etc. So I'd be interested to know if the wood is shipped north to be made into beads in Mali, or whether the beads are made where the wood is procured.

I also found out that this particular ebony tree is endangered - so actually I wish I'd known that before purchasing them, since I think they are newly made and not antiques.

RFEbonyBeadsDec2016.jpg (40.0 KB)  


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Never mind, I think I have the answer
Re: Ebony Beads from Mali - looking for more info -- Rosanna Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
12/02/2016, 16:10:28

I should have started my search on AliBaba.

There, one supplier has very similar ebony beads that can be supplied at the rate of 100 strands per week. Hopefully that means the wood is from a non-endangered source. AliBaba lists all sorts of ebony beads, BTW.

So unless someone has other info, I think I'm going to assume the beads I purchased, which were not that expensive, are new production from China. Dang!

AliBabaEbonyBeads.jpg (25.8 KB)  


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New info - African Blackwood
Re: Never mind, I think I have the answer -- Rosanna Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
03/28/2017, 08:34:25

I pulled this post up from last December because I found some more information about the "ebony" beads that I purchased.

It appears that the beads are not made from ebony, but a similar wood called African Blackwood. The tree is not currently endangered but may be soon. And, the tree is indigenous to the savannah areas of west Africa, so I think most of the "ebony" beads, bracelets, etc that we find from the Mauritanian, Malian, etc. trade are probably African Blackwood.

Some info from wood-database.com:

Common Name: African Blackwood, Mpingo (Swahili)

Scientific Name: Dalbergia melanoxylon

Distribution: Dry savanna regions of central and southern Africa

Color / Appearance: Often completely black, with little or no discernible grain. Occasionally slightly lighter, with a dark brown or purplish hue. The pale yellow sapwood is usually very thin, and is clearly demarcated from the darker heartwood.

Workability: Very difficult to work with hand or machine tools, with an extreme blunting effect on cutters. African Blackwood is most often used in turned objects, where it is considered to be among the very finest of all turning woods—capable of holding threads and other intricate details well. When made into clarinet or oboe bodies, the wood is typically processed on metal-working equipment, giving it a reputation as being metal-like in some of its working properties.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is reported by the IUCN as being near threatened. Technically it doesn’t meet the Red List criteria of a vulnerable or endangered species, but is close to qualifying and/or may qualify in the near future.



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