The chairs pictured here sold for $118,500 in the December 2011 Asian Works of Art auction. Why such a high price? They’re made of one of the world’s rarest and most desirable woods: huanghuali.
A member of the rosewood family, huanghuali stands for rarity, beauty and in today’s Chinese furniture market, high prices. It is believed that there are less than 10,000 pieces of huanghuali furniture left in the world. Because the wood is nearing extinction, and is now a protected species, supply is very limited. Matched with the rapidly increasing demand for Chinese antiques, prices for huanghuali furniture have skyrocketed over the past five years.
Huanghuali is possibly the hottest category of furniture in the world today.
Historically, Hainan Island appears to be the main source of the wood, although it is believed that there are similar species in North Vietnam, Indochina, Guangxi and other islands of the South China Sea. Dating to the mid-Ming period, huanghuali furniture is believed to have been prized by the very wealthy, the upper classes and officials.
An exceptional collection of huanghuali furniture sold in our most recent auction of Asian Works of Art held in early December. With the current strength of the Asian market, we anticipated heavy competition and high prices. Sure enough, exuberant internet bidding, ten telephone lines, absentee bids and of course, participation from those in attendance, led to impressive results.
Distinguishing Features of Huanghuali Furniture
The color of huanghuali ranges from golden-yellow to reddish-brown.
Originally, the wood was known only as “huali,” which means “pear tree flower.” “Huang” (yellow) was added to describe the surface of old huali wood that has mellowed over years of exposure to light.
Huanghuali has a sweet fragrance that distinguishes this wood from hongmu, a similar-looking but pungent-smelling wood.
The finest examples have a beautiful grain that can form abstract or even figural patterns on the surface.