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Rosewood and Bubinga: CITES Regulations

By Jake Law: July 20, 2017

A new regulation took effect on the 2nd of January 2017 which requires documentation for all rosewood made guitars being shipped internationally. All types of this species are affected such as East Indian rosewood and Honduran rosewood, as well as cocobolo and African blackwood. Whilst trading within our borders and the EU is fine, certification will be required for sales outside of these areas. This stalled the movement of pre-convention rosewood with many brands having to backlog their existing stock. Companies have been forced to seek alternatives; Fender already opting to use Pau Ferro for their Ensenada made guitars, whilst Taylor are now using Walnut and Koa for all guitars in the 200 Series and below.

Which woods are affected?

All species under the Dalbergia umbrella are protected under CITES Appendix II, as well as three bubinga species (Guibourita demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana and Guibortia tessmannii). The most notable woods used for guitar backs, sides, fretboards and bindings are:

  • All Rosewood (Honduran Rosewood, East Indian Rosewood etc)
  • Cocobolo
  • Bubinga
  • African Blackwood
  • Granadillo

What caused the change?

Since 1975, the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) have been keeping tabs on trade of wildlife to ensure it does not threaten the survival of particular species. Rosewood has long been at the forefront of concern with a rise in demand for high-end furniture in China and the Far East. Whilst not all forms of rosewood have been affected by this, determining each individual species would be tricky – which is why a global regulation has been put in place.

What this means for GV?

We have always been proud of our worldwide reputation so turning down sales to the likes of America or Australia is not on our agenda. If you are outside the EU and want to purchase a guitar from us featuring rosewood, it is worth taking into account the following:

  • Each CITES license takes around 14-28 days to complete, but we are hoping this process speeds up over time.
  • The license is also subject to a fee of £59, which the Guv’nor is happy to cover but the import costs are up to you (this varies from country to country so worth checking before making a purchase).

Once the license is back from the CITES office, the guitar can be boxed up and shipped to the buyer. While this seems like a long winded process, it is the only option until any changes in the laws occur. There have been talks to reduce the regulation, so that guitars with rosewood fretboards will be exempt – but this will not change for acoustic guitars with rosewood back and sides.

What is the buying process?

If you are outside the EU and want to buy a guitar from us containing any of the aforementioned tonewoods, put the sale through as normal and we will begin the license application process. You are more than welcome to email us at, or call on +44 (0)1252 726821 if you have any questions. We’ll send you a courtesy email once we receive the order and will be in touch as soon as the documents are back from CITES.


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