Amid increased concerns over the origin Genuine Mahogany and other exotic hardwood species, J. Gibson McIlvain continues to fully inspect and import quality Honduran Mahogany from responsible sources, fully investigating each aspect of the supply chain.
Early History of Mahogany
In order to fully appreciate the term “Genuine Mahogany,” you need to know a little lumber history. To start out, follow the wooded trail back a few hundred years to Europe of the 1700s, when Mahogany one of the major items exported from what would become known as South America. From London to continental Europe, cabinetmakers valued this richly colored wood. The wood’s natural durability and resistance to decay made it ideal for exterior applications, like doors and window framing. Not many years passed before the industry was threatened by decreased supply due to over-harvesting without the kind of re-planting policies in place today.
Additional impediments to continued exporting of mahogany were caused by war-induced embargoes and political shifts. North American Walnut helped quell craftsmen’s appetites for mahogany, but the demand for this precious lumber never quite died out. Those in search of a wood that more closely resembled the South American species soon stumbled on a species in Africa that had traits similar to that of what we now call “Genuine Mahogany.” While this newly discovered African wood shares many characteristics with its South American cousin and is truly in the same scientific family, it lacks some of the premier characteristics of its Honduran counterpart. The African wood boasts remarkable workability and unmatched, vibrant coloring.
Mahogany Market Confusion
Whether lumber suppliers were intentionally deceptive in referring to the African lumber as “mahogany” is anyone’s guess, but the result was undeniable: Customers were confused and sometimes felt duped by receiving lower quality lumber than what they expected from a wood referred to as “Mahogany.” As a result of this identification issue, the Honduran species (Swietenia macrophylla) became known as “Genuine Mahogany,” giving way to a new confusion regarding the fact that the African variety is a true mahogany, as well.
Scientific Classifications of Mahogany
Since what is now known as “Genuine Mahogany” typically hails from the South American nation of Honduras, it is more justifiably referred to as “Honduran Mahogany.” This wood species’ scientific name is Swietenia macrophylla, and it is one of two species in the Swietenia genus of the family Meliaceae (or mahogany). The Meliaceae family also includes the Khaya,genus. All three species in the Khaya genus can be found in Africa or East Asia.
Even though the African and Asian mahoganies are actually true mahoganies and are well-suited to many applications, some master craftsmen, makers of fine furniture, and restoration experts swear by the original South American variety; J. Gibson McIlvain is a trusted source for such distinguished professionals. The slightly lower quality Khaya mahoganies boast greater affordability, making them preferable for budget-savvy builders, and we carry that, as well.
While J. Gibson McIlvain carries many species of Mahogany lumber, we specialize in carrying a variety of Genuine Mahogany boards in our sizeable inventory.