Can I restore purpleheart's color?
I have been reading a lot lately about problems with purpleheart turning brown. Some say put it in the sun and it will turn back. Others say the opposite: The sun caused it to turn brown. Will any finishing technique prevent it from browning?
—David Powers, Whiteland, Ind.
Purpleheart's namesake color comes and goes with exposure to sunlight, David, so both opinions you've heard could be correct. When freshly cut, purpleheart sometimes appears a dingy brown. Within days, though, it turns a vivid purple in a process that's speeded up by exposure to light.
Months or years after that, especially when exposed to sunlight, purpleheart turns a deep brown with purple overtones, as you can see on the jewelry rack shown above. A film finish with UV inhibitors can slow the purple-to-brown color change, but not stop it completely. You can also slow the change by keeping finished projects away from direct sunlight.