Ebony has been prized by humans for thousands of years; its dense structure, dark color and the ease with which it takes polish has made this hardwood a favorite material among craftspeople and artisans. It also possesses a number of interesting symbolic connotations.
The word ebony comes from the Greek word “eben”, meaning ‘stone’, and accurately describes this material (ebony is one of the few woods dense enough to actually sink in water). Because of its dark color, the Greeks associated ebony with death, melancholy and the Underworld; Hades, the god of the dead, was said to sit on a throne made of ebony.
In more recent centuries, ebony was the material commonly used to craft black piano keys. Since ivory was typically used to craft the piano's white keys, this gave rise to the phrase “ebony and ivory”, an expression with highly charged symbolism of its own.