POSITIVE WOOD IDENTIFICATION
Positive identification of wooden artifacts can be very valuable information in some cases. Also, identifying the species of wood used can help date an object, if you know when a certain wood began to be imported into the European market. The only positive method of verification is microscopic analysis and comparison with other known samples.
A small, non-invasive sample is taken from a hidden area and compared with microphotographs. If necessary, the sample will be forwarded to larger more complete laboratories for confirmation.
The Dallas Museum of Art needed to know the species of wood used in this carving. They knew this Yombe carved wood statue was obtained from a certain valley in the Belgian Congo in the late 19th century, so this narrowed the search. It was a positive match for Canarium, the common name for Canarium schweinfurthii, a soft wood resembling mahogany.
This Chinese bed was known to be made for the Chinese Imperial collection in late 1700’s. If it was Zitan, an Imperial wood, it would be worth many thousands more than if it were East Indian rosewood, Hongmu. Unfortunately, comparisons proved it to be rosewood, and consequently was listed as Hongmu, yet it still brought $55,000.00.