Why Is Sandalwood so Valuable?
Sandalwood is valuable because it is rare. The wood actually comes from a number of species of trees that can be found only in southern India, Indonesia and Australia.
Sandalwood has straight grain. The wood is so heavy that it will barely float in water. The heartwood, or center, has a yellowish brown or orange color.
A fragrant odor from sandalwood is a result of oil it contains. Sandalwood oil is obtained by pressing the wood. The oil is used to make perfumes, cosmetics and certain medicines.
Most sandalwood is shipped to China where it is used for carving and for incense in temples. The wood is well suited to making carved boxes, jewel cases, fans, combs and walking sticks.
Sandalwood was first used in ancient times–probably more than 4,000 years ago. In India, it’s been valued for at least 2,000 years as one of the most sacred trees–an important part of devotional rituals.
The wood has been used to make various religious artifacts such as staffs and figurines, and a sandalwood paste was made for marking the skin. Because of its resistance to white ants, the wood was also used in early buildings.
Sandalwood was an important medicinal herb in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicines. By 700 B.C., it was an important trade item and has been found in Egyptian embalming formulas.
It was also used in death rituals in other countries–in India it was burned on funeral pyres or even used to make coffins for the very wealthy.
A key ingredient in perfumes and incense, lotions and body oils, sandalwood has been one of the most important perfume materials for more than 2000 years. In China, sandalwood joss sticks are very popular as incense.
Following tradition, the wood of the sandalwood tree is still used to make sacred objects, carvings, and various handcrafted ornaments.
In the past, it was often used for temple doors, and it is still valued for intricately carved furniture–although with today’s high prices, it is used for this purpose less than in the past. Chips of wood are burned as an incense or ground to make incense sticks.