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Rosewood furniture in price heat
- report from China (Beijing) International Rosewood Classical Furniture Exhibition 2010

  W'World's number one table' hewn from quality rosewood.
  "World's number one table" hewn from quality rosewood.
The 2010 China (Beijing) International Rosewood exhibition was a three-day event that showed off the best and most popular in the industry from a large number of cities and provinces across the country, with prices very much on attendees' minds.

According to information provided by the fair organiser, the price of rosewood furniture rose over 40% in the first eight months of the year. What merits attention is that while the price of premium items is steadily rising, price fluctuations are seen from the variety of goods, with standards from excellent to sloppy.

Advice from industry veterans to investors and collectors was obviously in praise of quality pieces to maintain the value of their rosewood furniture.

There were all the big names in the business represented in co-sponsoring the event, including the China Curio Chamber of Commerce, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, the Society for the Study of Chinese Traditional Furniture, the China Entrepreneurial Collectors Association and the Beijing Bowei International Exhibition Co Ltd.

Rosewood furniture enterprises ranking among the top 10 in the industry from various Mainland provinces and cities opened visitors' eyes to their best pieces.

An antique reproduction rosewood vase.   Classical rosewood furniture.
An antique reproduction rosewood vase.   Classical rosewood furniture.

According to Chen Xiuwen, Deputy General Manager of Wanfu Rosewood Co, the value of rosewood furniture depends on a variety of factors, including the quality of the timber, its age and carpentry techniques.

Timber quality is vitally important, given that the raw material is scarce. Chen said that when speculative trading of rosewood furniture was at its height last year, the price of the wood jumped from 30% of total cost to 70% at one stage, suggesting that supply trailed far behind demand.

Antique reproduction furniture.  
Antique reproduction furniture.  
The age of the wood is another crucial point. Furniture from different periods attracts contrasting artistic value, so the wood's age is a vital yardstick when evaluating antique rosewood furniture.

Then there are the structure and shape of the furniture, as well as surface decorations such as carving, inlays and polishing. Sitting room furniture, study furniture and bedroom furniture are usually carpented differently, with sitting room furniture possessing the highest artistic value, followed by study furniture. Bedroom furniture is considered the least valuable.

Collectors and investors are also encouraged to carefully check to see if any furniture parts are missing, and whether filling and patching up has been done.  Console tables are a case in point. These tables are made from a single piece (or two pieces) of timber carpented together, so that additional parts should cause concern to the purchaser.

Raw material and furniture prices rise

The price of raw materials for rosewood furniture is in an uptrend. First-grade rosewood from Laos has risen to between Rmb110,000 and Rmb120,000 per tonne. Vietnamese yellow rosewood has risen to about Rmb1 million per tonne.

Great promise in rosewood antique furniture.   The exhibition counter for Hainan yellow rosewood products.
Great promise in rosewood antique furniture.   The exhibition counter for Hainan yellow rosewood products.

An exhibitor pointed out that the soaring price of yellow rosewood is largely due to speculative trading. This product supplier went to Hainan Island to purchase yellow rosewood for making violin chinrests and duck music boxes in the 1980s and the price then was only Rmb1,000 per tonne. On the current market, violins with accessories made of yellow rosewood could cost over Rmb10,000 each.

  Rosewood products.
  Rosewood products.
As demand from buyers and collectors of high-end rosewood furniture grows, the shortage of valuable timber will become more keenly felt.

With the ban imposed by Laos and Vietnam on the export of rare timbers, the price of Mainland rosewood could approach the current level of Vietnamese yellow rosewood in some three years.

Scarcity of resources often promises the greatest investment potential with the least risk. As China's economic environment stabilises, the supply-demand disequilibrium between a growing number of consumers and the scarcity of valuable resources is expected to further push the price of rosewood furniture.

Antique reproductions charm consumers

Classical rosewood furniture is at the centre of China's traditional home furnishing culture dating back to the Han and Tang dynasties and flourishing in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Mainland rosewood furniture is dominated by "antique reproductions" of Ming and Qing furniture styles. Many experts point out that the value of these items lies very much on preserving the flavour of the classical pieces.


A 'dragon' armchair.   Yellow rosewood products.
A "dragon" armchair.   Yellow rosewood products.

In the antique reproduction furniture market, there are Shanxi-style furniture with partial woodwork carvings or gold-painted decorations and Ningbo-style furniture with bone or mother-of-pearl inlays.

The more original the flavour they have preserved, the higher will be their value in terms of history, culture and craftsmanship. Also, the higher will be their price compared with ordinary rosewood furniture.

Simple and unsophisticated Shandong-style rosewood furniture is on the decline. Rosewood furniture with shell inlays and silver outlines, which dominated the export market in the early days, has virtually disappeared.

A special committee under the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce was formally established in Guangzhou in September, suggesting that China's classical rosewood furniture industry is entering a new stage of regulation, with brand names to the fore.

Small rosewood items.   A dining table and chairs worth millions.
Small rosewood items.   A dining table and chairs worth millions.

There's been a growing tendency to combine traditional techniques with modern elements in the making of classical style rosewood furniture. This has become an integral part of the home improvement industry chain.

Exhibition counters at the exhibition.  
Exhibition counters at the exhibition.  
But due to a lack of clear-cut and unified industry standards, substandard goods and fakes abound to the detriment of both consumers and the industry. The birth of a nationwide industry association that covers the entire home improvement industry should meet the demand for better furniture.

The Furniture and Decoration Chamber of Commerce within the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce considers the prime task of the special committee will be to promote the development of the entire industry and ecourage individual enterprises.

Efforts are to be made to integrate related resources around the rosewood furniture industry chain to ensure its development.

from special correspondent Lin Xu, Beijing

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council