Ebony – Clarity – Two of Hardwoods (Swords)

Genus: Diospyros – Family: Ebenaceae


Ebony reminds us that clarity is necessary when making decisions that impact the future of generations to come.

Ebony is one of the world’s more prized hardwoods because of its deep black color and dense wood. When polished it takes on a clear, glossy luster that can feel like metal. These unique characteristics have clearly made ebony a premium wood that has been in high demand for centuries. Ebony is a slow-growing evergreen that reaches maturity in 70 to 200 years.

It is one of 700 species in the genus Diospyros, which also includes persimmon trees. The genus name Diospyros is derived from the Greek dios (divine) and pyros (fire), meaning “divine fire.” Only a few of these species produce the hardwood we know as ebony. The word “ebony” originated around 3000 BCE when Ancient Egyptians identified an African black wood they were using as hbny.

Hbny, when translated into Greek and Latin, became ebenos. Later, as trees were scientifically classified, the black wood that inspired the word “ebony” was actually identified as “rosewood” — Dalbergia melanoxylon, or African blackwood, in the genus Dalbergia.

Gabon ebony, Diospyros crassiflora, native to western Africa, produces the darkest wood of the ebony species and barely reaches 30 feet. It is endangered due to exploitation and over harvesting.

Ceylon ebony, Diospyros ebenum, native to India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, was commercially available for centuries but its exportation is now banned. During the 16thand 19thcenturies it was used to make ornate furniture and intricately carved doors. Ceylon ebony can grow to be 82 feet tall.

Makassar ebony, Diospyros celebica, native to Sulawesi is a variegated wided-striped wood with black and brown streaks. Makassar ebony can grow to 66 feet tall, considered vulnerable.

Ebony has been the wood of choice for many musical instruments such as piano keys, guitar frets, tuning pegs and violin fingerboards. In 2012, the Gibson Guitar company was raided for using ebony in their guitars. This was seen as a violation of the Lacey Act of 1900, which prohibits the use of threatened woods. Ebony is clearly a threatened wood that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Message: Ebony is here to remind us to be current and clear-headed so we can make wise and informed decisions. We are being asked to seek new ways to create beauty and harmony that are sustainable for the long-term. This is a time to bring clarity to our intentions as we focus on the future.

Challenge: Easily clouded by misinformation or misperception. Being stuck while the world around us is changing.