Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia Latifolia)

In the late 1960s our father Gian Piero Rivolta started traveling to India on the quest of purchasing Rosewood logs. He was certainly one of the first Italian buyers to go to that country. Up until then, the Rosewood traded in Italy had been coming mainly from importers of other countries, which for historical reasons had greater commercial links with India.

The zone of origin of Rosewood is located between the States of Karnataka and Kerala, but most of the trading takes place in Kochi, a beautiful Indian city facing the ocean with a long colonial history: first Portuguese, then Dutch for a short period and lastly British.

At the time of our father’s first journeys, Rosewood - a highly valuable wood, was used for manufacturing artistic objects and furniture and the Italian craftsmen and their products were famous and stood out as examples of excellence and high quality all over the world. 

But Rosewood was also used for applications such as: knife handles, religious objects and lastly, in small part, for making musical instruments.

Various guitar factories were active in Italy during that period, mainly in the Marche Region and the Province of Catania (Sicily). Many of these guitar makers bought logs or boards from our Sawmill; however there were only a few guitar-makers working in Italy during those years.

Indian Rosewood was the reason why our company got involved in dealing with wood destined for musical instruments

Guitar backs

The journeys and on-site testing

Large quantities of logs used to reach our Desio Sawmill in those days and our father used to visit India many times each year to buy them.

In the 1970’s, traveling to India was not as easy as it is today: it was a long journey, and the local means of communication and transport were very poor and out-dated. All these aspects certainly made the work more difficult but also rich in fascination: the return from each voyage was, for us children, full of anticipation for the tales our father would share of his undertakings.

If India and its tales have played a fundamental role in our childhood, Rosewood has certainly played it in the development of our company. 

Forest grown Rosewood, Plantation Rosewood

The finest Rosewood comes from the Indian mountains: it has a very narrow growth grain, it is dark purple in colour and is becoming more and more rare as well as expensive.

It is easier to find in tea or coffee plantations where it is planted to provide shade; there, it grows more rapidly thanks to the great quantities of light and water, and is also lighter in colour. 

On the other hand the logs have a better conformation. When the plants reach a certain diameter or when years of poor harvest occur, the owners cut down some Rosewood trees to integrate their income. 


Protection of the forests and legal wood

At the end of the 1970s the Indian Government decided to ban the export of logs and planks: this choice was intended to limit uncontrolled wood logging and to encourage Indian sawmills to produce semi-finished products, thus promoting the employment of local labour and adding value to the exported goods. Many years later, other tropical countries followed this very example.

It is important to point out that India has always adopted a very attentive forest policy: all logs, whether coming from state property or from private plantations and forests, are sold by public auction for the very purpose of counteracting illegal logging.

For this reason it is important that suppliers are able to prove the lawful purchasing of the logs. Knowing the suppliers personally guarantees certainly a good quality but also makes sure that the trees have been logged under controlled and lawful conditions.

The banning on the export of logs from India did surely have a heavy impact on our company, which was suddenly deprived of a large part of its work.

However, many small and rudimentary sawmills started to make semi-finished products, mostly knife handles and guitar parts - such as fret boards, bridges, sides and backs. And so it happened that a new type of trade started for us, surely more limited but just as interesting.

Therefore the main reason for the journeys became the selection and testing of semi-finished parts. 

Fifty years experience

Thanks to his sound knowledge of India and Rosewood, our father was appointed by Martin Guitars (one of the most important American guitar factories at the time) to test and purchase large quantities of fret boards and sets for sides and backs. This enabled him to become for several years one of the most important buyers and to develop his own experience considerably. The closing of the Italian guitar factories in the 1980s led to a considerable growth in number of independent guitar-makers, thus a new market was born: certainly smaller, but undoubtedly more demanding and qualified. Traveling to India is much easier today, yet always fascinating; our only regret is that the frequency of such travels is reduced. Our suppliers are very often the sons of those traders who, almost 40 years ago, sold the first trunks to our father: indisputable proof of the strong ties our family has with India and the excellent relationship which binds us with many of them.

Currently we hold a large stock of guitar sets at our Sawmill: over 8000 pieces with several years of aging, available to any customer wishing to purchase them. Each part bears the date of cutting and the quality.

All Rosewood sold by the Rivolta company is of reliable and lawful origin.

You are very welcome to come and visit us: you will certainly find fine woods, handled with the greatest of care.