Calamander wood or Coromandel wood is a valuable wood from India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. It is of a hazel-brown color, with black stripes (or the other way about), very heavy and hard. It is also known as Macassar Ebony or variegated ebony and is closely related to genuine ebony, but is obtained from different species in the same genus; one of these is Diospyros quaesita Thwaites, from Sri Lanka. The name Calamander comes from the local sinhalese name, 'kalu-medhiriya', which means dark chamber; referring to the characteristic ebony black wood.
Coromandel wood has been logged to extinction over the last 2 to 3 hundred years and is no longer available for new work in any quantity. Furniture in coromandel is so expensive and so well looked after that even recycling it is an unlikely source. A substitute, Macassar Ebony, has similar characteristics and to the untrained eye is nearly the same but it lacks the depth of colour seen in genuine Coromandel.
became very popular towards the end of the 18th century. They were manufactured specifically to accompany upper class gentleman during travel. Dressing cases were originally rather utilitarian but they spoke volumes about their owners’s wealth and place in society, as at that time, traveling was only done by the elite.
Gentleman’s dressing cases would contain bottles and jars for colognes, aftershaves and creams as well as essential shaving and manicure tools. As these boxes became more popular, many further traveling item options were offered for inclusion.
By the early Victorian era, ladies also began to travel and suddenly their requirements were anything but utilitarian! Ladies dressing cases could feature a wide range of decorative bottles and jars as well as a vast array of beautifcation tools, all designed with pure luxury in mind. The exterior of the box became almost as important as the interior and these boxes started being veneered with beautiful exotic woods from all over the world.
As demand for gentleman’s boxes lessened, the dressing case started to also become known by the more feminine term ‘vanity box’. These boxes, with their excessive price tags, were now considered as true works of art and beauty in themselves, and were often bought as status symbols rather than actual traveling companions.
Some of the finest examples of travelling cases made from exotic wood with gold and silver fittings come from: Walter Thornhill, Betjamann & Sons and Jenner & Knewstub.