Many people, sometimes even industry professionals, use 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, we discussed the origins of wicker furniture a few months back. You may hear it referred to as wickerwork, but wicker is the type of weaving done with various materials to create the pieces you know and love. While you can use rattan to make wicker, many other materials, such as reeds, bamboo, willow, and more, get used. 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. Rattan 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. hollow bamboo. The solid core of the rattan and the outer sheaths are processed separately. The inner core gives a lot of well-known wicker furniture its 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.