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, aluminium and twisted wire. Various types of inlaid articles and their quality are known by the size and geometrical designs. Smaller pieces result in a higher value of the artwork.
Marquetry designing is highly elaborate. In each cubic centimetre 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 from 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 pen holders, 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 masterpieces of this art.
Currently, this art is being practised in Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran. Inlay masters, preserving the nobility of their art, have brought forth great innovations in this fine art.
Woodcarving is one of the outstanding Iranian arts, which require dexterity and artistic skills. It provides wood, ivory or bone in simple or complex shapes for use in khatamkari.