Only the best artists are allowed to carve its valuable wood and on the ancient Silk Road Indian sandalwood was one of the most sought-after merchandises which traders brought from its natural habitat in India to markets in distant China.
Both its wood as well as the precious essential oil contained in the tree’s heartwood continue to play an important role for many religious, ceremonial, cosmetic and, more recently, pharmaceutical applications.
Today it is sourced mostly through excessive and illegal logging from wild and remotely located jungles in southern India. As a result of this continued over-exploitation the tree is now threatened by extinction and has consequently been placed under protection as an endangered species.
In recent years, the natural supply of Indian sandalwood has therefore almost completely disappeared, while the demand for its wood and precious oil continues to increase steadily.
Indian sandalwood is a semi-parasitic, tropical hardwood tree which grows up to 20 feet tall.
Its heartwood and roots contain the precious Indian sandalwood oil.
For centuries, Indian sandalwood and the oil extracted from it have served as valuable raw material for religious, ceremonial, cosmetic and, more recently, emerging pharmaceutical applications.
For many years now - and as a direct consequence of decades of illegal and excessive logging - the demand for Indian sandalwood and its essential oil has exceeded the available supply by a factor of multiples.
For at least 10-15 years now, this structural supply shortage has led to double-digit annual increases in the price for the tree’s wood and oil, making the Indian sandalwood tree one of the most precious woods in the world today.
The raw materials produced from the Indian sandalwood tree are used for the manufacture of many and varied end-products and applications.
Indian sandalwood oil, for instance, serves as a key ingredient for the perfume and cosmetics industry and, more recently, the pharmaceutical industry has emerged as a new and lucrative market opportunity for Indian sandalwood also.
For generations, the wood of the Indian sandalwood tree has been used for the manufacturing of exclusive fine furniture, carvings and jewellery.
The various by-products and residues won during the processing of Indian sandalwood are used mainly in the cosmetics industry and for religious and ceremonial applications.