EBONY is described as of several colours, as yellow, red, green, and black. The existence of yellow and red ebonies appears questionable. The black ebony is the kind always referred to when the name is mentioned alone; in fact, "as black as ebony," is an old proverb. The wood is surrounded by a white sap 3 or 4 inches thick. The green ebony is an entirely different tree, with a thin smooth bark, growing in the West Indies. Three kinds are imported; No. 1, from the Mauritius, in round sticks like scaffold polos, they seldom exceed 14 in. diameter; No. 2, the East Indian which grows in Ceylon, the East India islands, and on the continent of India, this is mostly shipped from Madras and Bombay in logs from 6 to 20 and sometimes even 28 in. diameter, and also in planks; and No. 8, the African ebony, shipped from the Cape of Good Hope in billets, the general sizes of which are from 3 to 6 ft. long, 3 to 6 in. wide, and 2 to 4 in. thick, these are rent out of the trees, and are thence often called billet-wood.
No. 1, the Mauritius, is the blackest and finest in the grain, as well as the hardest and most beautiful of the three, but also the most costly and unsound; No. 2, the East Indian, is less wasteful, but of an inferior grain and colour to the above; and No. 3, the African, is the least wasteful, as nil the refuse is left behind, and all that is imported is useable, but it is the most porous, and the worst in point of colour.
They are all used for cabinet, mosaic, and turnery works; also for flutes, the handles of doors, knives, and surgeons' instruments, and many other purposes. Piano-forte keys are generally made of the East Indian variety.
The African stands the best, and is the only sort used for sextants.
Colonel Lloyd says, the Mauritius ebony when first cut is beautifully sound, but that it splits like all other woods from neglectful exposure to the sun. The workmen who use it, immerse it in water as soon as it is felled for 6 to 18 months, it is taken out and the two ends are secured from splitting by iron rings and wedges. He considers the Mauritius ebony to be the finest, next the Madagascar, and afterwards the Ceylon.
In Mr. Fincham's collection there is a specimen of White Ebony from the Isle of France; it resembles boxwood in most of its characters. There is also a specimen of Young Ebony, of similar description, or rather more like ash in general tint, intermixed with light iron-grey streaks or stains, as if the black were in course of deposition. And in Capt. Baker's collection at the Society of Arts, there are nine different specimens of Diospyros, two only of which are black, the remainder, more or less like the above.
The black ebony is also met with in South America, but much less generally than in Asia and Africa.
The ebony of Mauritius is yielded by Diospyrus Ebenus, that of Ceylon is D. Eben-aster, while the ebony-tree of the Coromandcl coast is D. melanoxylon, other species as D. tomentosa and D. Roylei, yield ebony on the continent of India. The tree yield-ing the African ebony is not ascertained. A kind of ebony is produced by Ame-rimnum Ebenus, in the West Indies, and called Jamaica ebony.
Mountain Ebony. The different species of Bauhiniae are so called: B. porrerta grows on the hills in Jamaica, and has wood which is hard and veined with black.
See Green Ebony and Coromandel.