One of the most important means of identifying genuine teak wood is to look at its colour. However things are not as simple as they appear at first glance.
This article is not only about what the natural colour of teak wood is, but also about how this colour is modified while making teak furniture.
The natural colour of teak wood ranges from yellowish-white to golden-brown colour.
The difference between sapwood and heartwood colour:
The heartwood (the central portion of the teak tree) is darker in colour, usually a shade of yellowish brown, while the sapwood (the outer layers of the tree) are of a lighter shade, typically whitish-yellow.
This difference in the colour of teak sapwood and heartwood is important to know, because the heartwood is of a much superior quality compared to sapwood. This is because its drier and harder, hence stronger and more stable. So if the teak furniture that you are thinking of buying is of a lighter shade (whitish), then it may be of an inferior quality, or may not even be teak wood.
Knowing the process of staining:
Secondly what most local furniture makers do is that they stain the teak wood so as to change its colour. Wood staining is different from painting. When a wood is stained the underlying grain pattern still remains visible, whereas painting forms a opaque layer that covers the wood grain.
If a teak sapwood of yellowish or white colour is stained, it can even become dark-brown in colour, similar to heartwood. So it's often necessary to ask the furniture makers whether the teak furniture that they are showing is stained or not? If yes, then you can ask to see an unstained piece of similar furniture so as to find out the actual colour of the wood.
Different Varieties have different colour:
The costlier varieties of teak wood such as the imported Burma teak have a rich golden-brown colour that looks very beautiful. Most other teak varieties, are mostly shades of brown with a yellowish tinge. Even if that is the case, the other varieties also look quite stunning when they are properly crafted and finished.
Note: There are some varieties known in the market as 'White teak' which are not actually teak wood, but they are actually beechwood which is a different kind of wood. These kinds are also called Goomar teak or Gambar teak in India.
The colour changes with time
It's also important to know that teak wood colour does not always remain the same. Teak wood darkens with age. Over time, wooden teak furniture can lose its shine and will become dull and grayish in colour. In such cases, the original colour and shine of the teak wood can be regained, by sanding and polishing the surface of the furniture.