Khatamkari is one of the Persian arts of marquetry wherein the surface of wooden or metallic articles is decorated with pieces of wood, bone, and metal cut in a variety of shapes and designs. Materials used in this craft can be gold, silver, brass, aluminum, and twisted wire.
Materials used in this craft can be gold, silver, brass, aluminum, and twisted wire. Various types of inlaid articles and their quality are known by their size and geometrical designs. Smaller pieces result in a higher value of the artwork.
This craft consists of the production of incrustation patterns (generally star-shaped), with thin sticks of wood (ebony, teak, Ziziphus, orange, rose), brass (for golden parts), and camel bones (white parts). Ivory, gold, or silver can also be used for collection objects. These sticks are assembled in triangular beams, assembled and glued in a strict order to create a geometrical motif such as a six-branch star included in a hexagon.
Marquetry design is highly elaborate. In each cubic centimeter of space, up to approximately 250 pieces of metal, bone, ivory, and wood are laid side by side. This art, to some extent, has existed in Iran for a long ago. Inlaid articles in the Safavid era took on a special significance, as artists used this art on doors, windows, mirror frames, Qur’an boxes, pen and penholders, lanterns, and tombs.
The ornamentation of the doors of holy places predominantly consists of inlaid motifs. These specimens can be observed in the cities of Mashhad, Qom, Shiraz, and Rey. In the Safavid era, the art of marquetry flourished in the southern cities of Iran, especially in Isfahan, Shiraz, and Kerman.
An inlaid desk, which is one of the definitive masterpieces of this art, was awarded the first prize and a gold medal in an art exposition in Brussels recently.
This desk is now preserved in the National Museum of Washington. Also, in some royal buildings, doors and various items have been inlaid. The inlaid-ornamented rooms in Sa’dabad and Marble Palace in Tehran are among the masterpieces of this art.
In the Safavid era, Khatamkari was so popular in the court that princes learned this technique alongside the art of music or painting. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Khatamkari declined, before being stimulated under the reign of Reza Shah, with the creation of art schools in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz.
Incorporating techniques from China and improving it with Persian know-how, this craft existed for more than 700 years and is still practiced in Shiraz and Isfahan.