Many people, some times even industry professionals use the terms wicker and rattan interchangeably. However, even though the highest regarded wicker fanatic may mix it up, it’s a very important difference to know as a lover and possible collector of fine wicker pieces.
Wicker is a process. If you remember a few months back we discussed the origins of wicker furniture. You may hear it referred to as wickerwork or just wicker but wicker is the name for the type of weaving done with various materials to create the pieces you know and love. While you can use rattan to make wicker, a lot of other materials get used such as reeds, bamboo, willow and more. The natural fibers of these plants are soaked to make them soft enough to weave and create furniture, baskets and much more. Some of these pieces may dry and become sturdy enough to be furniture but often they are used for accents and art pieces.
Rattan is a close relative of the palm tree. It is native to Africa, Asia and Australia and grows tall and slender reed like sprigs. The rattans can be compared superficially to bamboo, but the major difference between rattan and bamboo is what makes it an ideal product to make wicker furniture out of, the core of rattan is solid vs. the hollow bamboo. The solid core of the rattan and the outer sheaths are processed separately. The inner core is what gives a lot of well-known wicker furniture it’s durable, lasting finish. Natural rattan is still the most sought after wicker furniture. It creates a simple natural beauty, and with the proper care can last forever.