Before Li Du had come to Holbrook, he had done some research.
From what he understood, the most valuable type of rosewood was the threatened species of the Chinese and Vietnamese fragrant rosewood. At one time, they had almost nearly been depleted. Basically, they were priceless.
There was an annual supply of about 5,000 tons of rosewood. The log of the rosewood tree was more than 6 feet long. High-quality rosewood, especially logs from older trees, could fetch a price of 250,000 to 400,000 dollars per ton.
And this was just the price of the raw materials; once it was made into beautiful, polished furniture, the price was even more astounding.
The huge profit to be made attracted a large number of swindlers to the industry who created fake furniture. Many dishonest business owners used African padauk to imitate rosewood. Many people also used Mexican cocoboloor cocobolo from other countriesto pass off as Laos rosewood by giving it a dye wash or a coat of paint.
Li Du suspected that all these pieces of furniture were imitations. The owner of the Mahogany Gallery could have fled with the money after holding the clearance sale.
This was the most reasonable explanation as to why the store owner would leave so much "mahogany" furniture behind. If it were genuine, Li Du didnt believe the excuse that the store owner had just forgotten to bring it along to the new location.
Besides, what Lil Rick had said last night at the bar had made him suspicious as well. "Lets see if you can still be so imperious when the auction is over!"
Lil Ricks words could be interpreted as either the Ricks would do so well at the auction that Li Du would not be able to get any units, or that the Ricks knew of a problem with the units which could be used as a trap for him!
Hans searched the web for a while and shook his head. "Theres not much about wait, found it! Heres a post about the Delon Mahogany Gallery."
Li Du asked, "Is it a news report or something?"
"No, someone posted in a forum to complain that he bought some mahogany furniture only to be ridiculed by his Chinese friends that he had bought an imitation," said Hans. "He also said that many forums and news sites had colluded with the Delon Mahogany Gallery. Many threads and posts were being deleted when people raised doubts or questioned the authenticity of the furniture from there."
Li Dus eyebrows were still closely knit together. He took out a small book which he had bought for the trip: "The Past and Present of Asian rosewood."
"Whats the problem?" Hans asked.
Li Du said, "I can see the furniture inside through the seams. My familys secret art of prospecting tells me these units are not valuable."
"Not valuable?" Hans exclaimed in disappointment. "None of them?"
Li Du didnt want to make an absolute statement. So he replied vaguely, "Well, I cant see clearly from here, perhaps Im wrong. I need to have a better look."
As he spoke, he started to carefully examine the furniture. With the little bug hovering above the mahogany furniture, Li Du also looked at the information from the book to check the authenticity.
Mahogany furniture was a favorite amongst the nobles and wealthy around the world because of its beauty. There were many hues of colors due to the different species of rosewood: purplish red, yellowish red, reddish brown, and more. These were all the natural colors of various species of rosewood.
In addition, the mahogany wood grain was simple, beautiful, elegant, and fresh, even after the coat of lacquer and wax, the wood grain was still clearly visible.
But when fake mahogany furniture was coated with the lacquer, the color became dull and the wood grain disappeared.
Although he knew all this information, Li Du was still unable to tell the difference. The furniture inside was purplish red, and with the layer of lacquer and wax, he was unable to give a conclusion as he was not a rosewood connoisseur.
There was one accurate way to appraise mahogany furniture: measure the pore density of the wood. The best rosewood had the lowest pore density.
However, Li Du was unable to even touch the furniture, let alone conduct all these tests.
There was a section on types of deceptive methods used to imitate mahogany furniture in his small book. One common way was called "structural fraud."
The mortise and tenon joinery used in the creation process of the mahogany furniture required exact precision in order to fit perfectly.
Common furniture would not adopt the troublesome tenon and mortise joinery but instead use nails or glue for an easier and faster creation of the furniture, at the same time increasing the robustness of the furniture.
For common furniture, the use of nails and adhesive could increase their durability. However for the real mahogany furniture made of rosewood, the lifespan of the furniture would be greatly reduced if adhesives and nails were used to build them, even they might improve the toughness of the furniture. The oxidation of the nails could corrode the furniture, and corrosion due to the use of adhesives was said to be even worse.
Li Du slapped his head. How did I forget about this? The little bug can enter the wood and see the structure inside!
The little bug dived inside a table and moved to one of the table legs.
There was no sight of nails inside the table, but the joints and legs had a thick layer of white solidified matter. That was the adhesive.
He cussed in his mind when he saw this. How unlucky, he thought. It was looking like they might have encountered fake mahogany furniture.
Nonetheless, Li Du was not that disappointed. Even if that was real mahogany furniture, the chance of getting the unit at a low price was "mission impossible." All the furniture could be clearly seen from the entrance for viewing on the day of the auction.
Besides seeing adhesives at the joints, Li Du also noticed traces of them on the surface of the table, as well as on the surface of the legs of the table. Not only that, but he also saw a difference between the wood used near the surface and the wood used inside.
He checked his small book and saw that this was a deceptive technique called "fake finish" or a nicer term called the "mahogany veneer."
For such a deceptive technique, usually the cheapest wood would be used to make the furniture, and then a thin layer of the real rosewood plank would be glued onto the furniture so that even the trained eye would have difficulty ascertaining its authenticity.
Needless to say, all these pieces of furniture were imitations.
Li Du sent the little bug in to check the rest of the chairs. The results were the same: all furniture inside the unit was fake.
The findings made him feel rather dispirited as it looked like there wouldnt be anything valuable enough to make him excited. They might return empty-handed from Holbrook.
However, as he was a cautious person, he sent the little bug into the second storage unit to check the small beds and sofa inside.
The second unit contained furniture of the purplish-black hue; with one glance, it looked a lot like the red sandalwood (which also the nickname "violet rosewood")sturdy, exquisite, and generous.
At that instant Li Du felt that even if all this furniture was fake, if he could get hold of it at a low price, it might be a good idea. At the very least, the furniture was much better than his ordinary pinewood bed.
The little bug entered a bed and did not find any traces of adhesive or nails. There werent any "fake finishes" either. The wood inside looked the same throughout!
This discovery lifted Li Dus spirits. Could it be that the Delon Mahogany Gallery had both genuine and fake furniture in the units? Had he ran into the real furniture?
But, he still had some doubts about that. The exterior of the beds and sofa had a slightly different hue than the color of the wood on the inside. They looked somewhat paler outside and darker inside.
Li checked the small book and found another deceptive technique that matched this: it was called the "craftsmanship fraud."
In this method, bleaching was used to make the inexpensive wood look like the real rosewood. This advanced method of fraud was very harmful to the human body.
There were a total of 33 species of rosewood belonging to five genus families. Chinese Mahogany furniture was made using these 33 species of wood.
Nature was truly magical. There were many kinds of wood with similar appearances, but they were very different in nature.
There were some types of wood that had similar appearances to rosewood, but they lacked its durability. Other types of wood might have the durability of the rosewood, but lacked its natural fragrance.
In short, the 33 species of rosewood were all unique in their own ways, whereas imitations could be any common type of wood out there.
After some careful investigation, Li Du could somewhat guess the beds and sofa had been made with the Siamese Cassia, which was normally used to pass off as rosewood by bleaching it.
The third unit contained furniture that had also been made using this fraudulent craftsmanship. The furniture inside was of the brownish-red hue that looked like the precious Siamese rosewood.
After Li Du checked the patterns and color of the interior wood, he concluded that this wood was from some evergreen trees that had been bleached and then grained with red to imitate the Siamese rosewood.