Antiques Law – the do’s and don’ts when it comes to rosewood

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What is Rosewood?

Rosewood refers to one of around a dozen species of wood from the genus Dalbergia. It is often brown and well grained leading to its popularity in the making of furniture, luxury flooring and guitars. Its name stems from the sweet odour of the wood.

Is Rosewood protected?

In general, world stocks of rosewood are in decline through overexploitation. Rosewood is now protected worldwide. At a summit of the international wildlife trade in South Africa, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) moved to protect the world’s most trafficked wild product by placing all 300 species of the rosewood tree under trade restrictions.

Can Rosewood be traded?

Under CITES, trading in rosewood products made prior to 1947 is perfectly permissible. The position post 1947 is also clear. If you are buying a piece of rosewood, usually furniture, that was made after 1947, reputable and responsible dealers will indicate on the listing that the piece will come with an Article 10 Certificate (sometimes called a CITES Certificate). The seller will apply for certification and this will accompany the piece of rosewood – this is called a ‘Transaction Specific Certificate (TSC)’ which is issued in the name of the applicant and may only be used by them for one transaction. Without an Article 10 Certificate rosewood should not be traded.

How to identify the species of Rosewood?

Determining the precise species of rosewood can be difficult. It is possible to send a small sample of the wood for laboratory testing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (at a cost of around £120) but typically this is an invasive procedure unsuitable for furniture or works of art. It is preferable instead to assume the timber is Dalbergia nigra and apply to the Wildlife Licensing & Registration Service for a licence and Article 10 certificate.

Are Rosewood guitars exempted from the CITES laws?

An exemption to CITES was proposed in 2017 and came into law in November 2019 in relation to guitars and other musical instruments made from rosewood. This amendment allowed the international trade in rosewood guitars or other musical instruments without any Article 10 certificates being required.

 

 

11 thoughts on “Antiques Law – the do’s and don’ts when it comes to rosewood

  1. Gaynor harris says:

    I need to sell a rosewood sideboard 1965 ish
    My brother owned it and it has come to me after he died
    How do I get a certificate for auction?

  2. Peter Johnson says:

    Thank you for your interest in our blog.

    The simple answer to the question will depend upon the age of the furniture. If it were made after 1947, you are likely to need to provide an Article 10 Certificate (sometimes called a CITES Certificate). You will need to apply for certification and this will accompany the piece of furniture – this is called a ‘Transaction Specific Certificate (TSC)’ which is issued in the name of the applicant and may only be used by them for one transaction.

    If the item pre-dates 1947 a certificate is not usually required.

    Peter Johnson
    Senior Partner

  3. Dr Neil Gibbs says:

    Many thanks for your very informative article.
    Am I correct in assuming that any musical instrument made before 1947 is excerpt from CITES regulations? If correct, is this the case in the UK, EU, USA and Japan?
    Thanks again,
    Kind regards,

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Neil.

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      You are correct that any rosewood item which can be confirmed to have been made before 1947 should be exempt under CITES in the UK.

      As for other jurisdictions you would need to assess whether there was any specific legislation in that country governing the same.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

  4. simon Rumble says:

    Hi I am an antique dealer and want to sell a writing desk to the USA the desk is king wood a type of rosewood, the desk is 1840 in date, so well before the 1947 cut off point do I need any sort of permit or can I just go ahead, Surely a CITES certificate wont have provision for this as the date precludes it. Thanks cheers Simon

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Dear Simon.

      Thank you for your interest in our blog.

      In this regards kindly note that we are English law experts only. You will need advice from a US lawyer on this particular point.

      Regards.

      Peter Johnson.

  5. Trudy Fleming says:

    We have some little rosewood bedside tables that are part of an estate. If nobody in the family wants to keep them do we need a TSC for each table or can we apply for one if they are sold together? Thank you.

    • Peter Johnson says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog Trudy.

      It is likely (although we have of course not seen the pieces in question) that a certificate will be required for each piece (if required at all – which is likely if they were made post 1947) unless they are a pair or set in which case the authorities may issue one certificate to cover more than one piece.

      I would suggest that you liaise with the Animal and Plant Health Agency who will be able to advise.

      Peter Johnson
      Senior Partner

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