Native of the Americas, India and South East Asia, Mahogany is probably one of the largest ‘families’ of hardwood, having many different varieties within its own species.
Mahogany has been used for centuries in ship building, house building, furniture making etc and is the core structure of most 19th century boxes. The denseness, resilience and strength of Mahogany made it the perfect surface to adhere the exotic veneers to. It became more of a Victorian trend to dress Mahogany with these decorative veneers, such as Rosewood, Kingwood, Burr Walnut and Coromandel, so that the actual Mahogany was almost hidden from view.
Mahogany itself is a rich reddish brown wood that can range from being plain in appearance to something that is so vibrant, figured and almost three dimensional in effect. Cuban Mahogany is one of the densest and rarest forms of Mahogany with a deep lustrous, almost fiery red/ brown colour to it. This dense wood was often used for boxes intended for travel, especially overseas, as it was considered the most resistant to the effects of the salt water and sea air. Cuban Mahogany was so sought after, that by the late 1850’s, this particular variety became all but extinct.
Although Mahogany was most often used in its solid form, it also provided some beautifully figured varieties of veneer like ‘Flame’ Mahogany and ‘Fiddleback’ Mahogany (named after its preferred use in the manufacture of fine musical instruments).