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Rare Woods That Make Your Chess Set Highly Collectable


High quality chess sets have always been seen as collectable items with old antique sets often fetching high sums of money. One huge factor that will affect the collectability is the type of wood it has been crafted from. For a set of chess pieces to be made to a good standard they must be made from a dense hardwood. Woods such as ebony and rosewood are ideal for this purpose but both such woods currently sit on the endangered list. The deforestation, sale and distribution of these woods has now become severely restricted. Part of the reason for this is that exotic woods like ebony come from a tree that can take over one hundred years to mature. So 'sustainably sourced' ebony simply doesn't exist and won't exist any time soon.


Large stocks of these woods are generally only found in hot countries and undeveloped countries such as India where the governments are just starting to protect these trees through pressure from western governments and NGOs with a pro environmental agenda. The Brazilian government for example have put a blanket ban on the sale, export or deforestation of their rosewood which for years was used by the musical instrument industry for it's tonal and aesthetic qualities. As a result the value of items made from Brazilian rosewood has increased dramatically.


Those who had the fore sight to see what was happening with the cost of these woods took it upon themselves to invest in huge quantities of it. Producers of wooden craft products who bought large stocks of ebony and rosewood have made an excellent investment as the cost of the wood rises each year. Indeed many of the worlds largest chess piece makers bought literally tons of lovely hardwoods and store this wood in warehouses on their premises.


At the time of writing the international export and distribution of luxury hardwoods has become severely restricted. The Indian government for example have banned the export of ebony and rosewood as a raw material. They do however allow the export of it once it has been crafted into a product. This is because they have an obligation to help and stimulate the economy and so much of their local economy comes from hand crafts. If they banned the export of certain wooden products the effect on the economy would be damaging to say the least.


So what does the future hold for these woods? It's fair to assume that as the economies of the developing countries grow and prosper they will impose further restrictions of the export and use of luxury rare woods like ebony and rosewood. It is reasonable to assume that within ten years a total export ban on these woods will be imposed thus forcing chess set producers to use less desirable woods in production. We spoke to one chess manufacturer who said he has enough stocks of hardwood to last him another ten years. A wise investment on his behalf without doubt.


One interesting disparity is that it's currently possible to buy a set of genuine ebony chess pieces in the united kingdom for less money than the cost of the raw ebony material at current UK prices. Indeed to source ebony in large enough chunks to make a set of chessmen is very difficult in Europe. It is only because of countries like India and Pakistan that crafted ebony items are still available at a reasonable price.


So just how much of an investment will your luxury chess set become? It's a tough question to answer because it's unlikely you will ever want to sell your chess set, they are items of beauty and desire. It is worth considering that to obtain an ebony or rosewood chess set right now is not going to prove difficult, in years to come it will prove impossible to source a new one and values of second hand sets will outstrip what people paid for them when new.


One interesting point to consider is that for a rare hardwood item to be of high value it must be crafted to an excellent level of quality. Simply being made from ebony isn't good enough. A set of poor quality chessmen made from ebony is a bad investment and a sad waste of a scarce material. Making sure you buy an established brand of chessmen will certainly help maintain the value of your set. Woods to consider for investment grade chess sets are ebony, rosewood and sandalwood.