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Ebony Chess Sets

Blue Metropolis Chess Set

Blue Metropolis Chess Set

$764.75  $665.00
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Verona Chess Set

Verona Chess Set

$822.25  $715.00
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Grey Metropolis Chess Set

Grey Metropolis Chess Set

$764.75  $665.00
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Ebony, a dense hardwood typically found in regions like Africa and Asia, has been a favored material for chess sets for centuries due to its hardness and dark hue. With exceptional carving, turning, and polishing capabilities, ebony has been extensively used in crafting chess pieces, making it a natural choice for this purpose.

Ebony Wood

The Ebony tree belongs to the Diospyros species, with various sub-species, such as Diospyros ebenum, commonly found in southern India and Sri Lanka. Ebony is renowned for its solid black color, density, and hardness, so much so that it can sink in water, unlike most other woods. Contrary to a common misconception, ebony usually features streaks of brown, resulting in both dark and light areas within the logs.

Ebony trees take an exceptionally long time to mature, often requiring over one hundred years. As a result, sourcing ebony sustainably is challenging, making it one of the most precious and valuable woods available. The current high cost of ebony has prompted people to invest in high-quality ebony products as a store of value.

Traditional Uses for Ebony

  • Ornaments
  • Musical instruments
  • Chess sets
  • Native jewelry
  • Tool handles
  • Luxury furniture and marquetry

Ebony Chessmen

The unique qualities of ebony make it an ideal choice for crafting dark chess pieces. Wooden chessmen are typically turned on a lathe using sharp blades, and the knights are often carved with sharp tools or motorized drills. The resulting pieces are hard, strong, and highly durable. Thanks to its high density, the pieces can be polished to a brilliant sheen using soft buffing wheels and a wax coating, resulting in exquisite chess pieces.

Ebony Chess Boards

While ebony is a popular choice for chessmen, its use in chess boards is less common. Constructing a chess board requires larger cuts of wood, especially for the borders, which poses challenges in finding large enough pieces of ebony with consistent grain patterns and colors. Additionally, the extreme density of ebony can lead to cracking in solid chess boards, leading chess board production to steer away from using ebony. When used, it is typically seen in veneer construction with varying grains and colors.

Luxury Ebony Chess Sets

Due to its high cost, ebony is primarily reserved for crafting luxury chess sets. The most common of these are traditional Staunton chessmen, replicating the style and production methods of the original Victorian pieces. Ebony's weight, color, and texture lend an elegant touch to these luxury sets, with their classic black appearance remaining the ultimate traditional chess set.

The Staunton Ebony Chess Set

In the mid-1800s, the Jacques company introduced the first Staunton chess set, featuring ebony for the dark pieces. At the time, ebony was readily available and relatively affordable for woodworkers in the UK, without any import restrictions. The Staunton chess pieces quickly became the gold standard, and since the copyright expiration, thousands of versions of these beautiful chess pieces have been made. While other woods are also popular choices, the true Staunton chess set embodies the classic look and feel with ebony.

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