History of Persian Khatam

One of the valuable arts in the orient is inlaid work. Not much is known about the past history of inlaid work, because raw materials of inlaid work are mostly glue and wood which get destroyed with the passage of time. Nonetheless in those places which are regarded as sacred by people and which were maintained in good condition we come across specimens of inlaid work with antiquity of 200 to 300 years. The oldest specimen of inlaid work obtained so far belongs to Safavids period. This piece of craftsmanship is related to the tomb of Shah Nematollah Vali in Mahan, Kerman province.

Inlaid work is done in other countries such as India, Syria, Iraq and Palestine as well, but its antiquity, quality and delicacy are lower and inferior to the inlaid work in Iran. In fact, inlaid work is the particular handicraft of Iran.

Iranian inlaid work is always ranked first and is given the status of distinction in international fairs. Both from the point of view of quality and beauty these artistic specimens are at their climax.

It would not be exaggeration to say that the most important center of inlaid work in the world today is Iran (1).

Inlaid work

Persian khatam is one of the Persian art 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 , alminum 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 art work.

This craft consists in the production of incrustation patterns ( generally star-shaped ), with thin sticks of wood ( ebony, teak, ziziphus, orange, rose), brass ( for golden parts ), camel bones ( white parts ). Ivory, gold or silver can also be used for collection objects. First, the wood, bone or metal pieces are cut into prisms with triangular bases and are put side by side of each other in such a way that their cross sections have regular geometric forms.

Then the cut pieces are put side by side on a thin sheet of wood and glued together. 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. Then the sheet is placed on various objects such as table, chair, box, frame etc.