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
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.