Cocobolo is a rare, heavy exotic wood possessing a richness of color and durability. Colors and markings range anywhere from reddish-orange to a deep rich burgundy red or rose. The wood is characteristically marked with numerous beautiful, irregular, concentric markings of deep or black purple with black striping or mottling and yellow to gold markings. Cocobolo has a fine texture with straight to interlocked grain. Most desirable in a piece of cocobolo is a light brown to orange background with distinct black streaks throughout. The amount of figure and contrasting color varies widely from tree to tree. Cocobolo is one of the true tropical rosewoods. It is the heaviest and darkest member of the rosewood family, typically reaching 45-60 feet in height beneath the canopy in the natural rain forest. It is found growing in the west coast of central America, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Costa Rican Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), not to be confused with the Mexican variety of cocobolo (Dalbergia granadillo) is a strong, hard, and fairly heavy wood with natural oils that give the wood a rich satin luster without stain. It is this exotic finish, excellent working characteristics, and denseness that make it a favorite of Costa Rican artisans.
Cocobolo can be very nicely polished creating beautiful objects, and has been used to make cane shafts. The natural oils tend to waterproof the wood and make it resistant to the influence of moisture, even when left in contact with water for long periods of time. Cocobolo is twice the weight of walnut, and is so dense it will not float!
Cocobolo is so rare that it rarely reaches the world market. The Costa Rican government requires a permit to cut down any Cocobolo tree. With respect to the conservation of the rainforests, most of the cocobolo wood available today is not cut from the rainforest, but rather from privately owned “fincas”, or farms, on which cocobolo trees were planted and allowed to mature.