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Inlay Work

Inlay is one of the most intricate and complicated arts. It is said to have originated in Florence in Italy in 16th century. It was introduced in India in 17th century by the Mughals. The art of inlay is called "Parchin kari". Though the art form of mosaic inlay existed in India before, it was most popularized by Emperor Shahjahan.

Parchin kari or inlay is the art of setting gemstones and other colored stones in marble, soapstone or wood. Inlay initially started as marble decoration craft. As a Mughal craft it was used to decorate the marble structures with floral and geometrical patterns and calligraphy.

An inlay work product evolves in various stages. First a detailed planning is done. The design is finalized and cut in a brass sheet. The pattern is then traced on the marble. Second step involves deciding a color scheme and material for inlay. The inlay material can be precious and semi-precious gemstones or colored marble or other stones. Depending upon the pattern and color scheme, the colored stones are cut and sliced into different shapes separately. They are finely shaped with the emery wheel.

The pattern is then chiseled in the marble. The size of the chiseled grooves is exactly the same as the shaped gemstones. These gemstones are then carefully incorporated into the marble with some adhesive. After it dries off, the whole product is hand polished.

Agra has the maximum inlay craftsmen making inlay table tops, trinket boxes, vases, plates, hangings and many such products. The inlay craft manufacturers these days have made separate categories one involving the inlay of gemstones and ivory and other involving the inlay of colored marble and other stones. Soap stone inlay products and wooden inlay products are also in great demand.

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Cheers TFV,
Vishal Sabharwal

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Additional Photos by Vishal Sabharwal (shal) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 209 W: 62 N: 189] (944)
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