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Intarsa or inlay


Hi Orchids,

I am new to the list and would like to ask a question. Can you
explain the difference between intarsa and inlay. And how do you
describe it on a take in sheet or appraisal.

Thank you


The inlay I’ve done consisted of small pieces of stone (chips)
placed in a defined area, and the Intarsia I’ve seen looks more
like set tiles or stained glass art, it has been small, cut to
pattern, pieces of stone places very close together, in fact, so
close together that it looks like a single stone . . . like


All the inlay I’ve seen has some type of metal (gold, silver,
etc) edging All the intarsia has had a stone edge. Don’t know if
that is the ‘diffeinitive’ way to distinguish between the 2 or
not, but it works for me. Inlay may be either channel inlay or
chip inlay. Channel inlay usually ha s each piece or stone
enclosed within a thin strip of metal metal. Chip inl ay is a
number of small chips (crushed material) mixed with a binder,
usuall y a clear epoxy that is poured into the metal segments of
the design. Both channel & chip inlay are lapped flat & polished
after being put in the metal design. The individual pieces of
stone in the intarsia piece are cemented together & generally
lapped & polished after the design is finished.



  In the Fifth Edition of Gems: R. Webster  page 480  There is
an explanation of mosaics, intasia, inlay and pietra dura. 
quote: "The fitting together of small pieces of colored
ornamental stones to form a pattern or picture is called mosaic
or inlay which is sometimes know under the names intasia or
pietra dura."  I must be dumb as a post but it all seems the
same, is there a excepted "trade definition" and a way to
identify which is which, and how important is it on an
appraisal or take in sheet. I guess pietra dura sounds a lot
more expensive than inlay.  I am new at all this so please be
patient, I am really trying to learn. The dunce newby <g>

To most folks I know in the trade, the fitting of pieces of
stone together to form a picture or pattern would be intarsia.
Kinda like paint by numbers, only using selected stones. If, on
the other hand, you’re only fitting one material into another
base material, that’s inlay. Usually, the “other material” is
metal, and is often open channels and spaces fitted with one
stone, or multiples, either well fitted together or simply chips,
with the spaces filled with glue or other filler. I’d define the
difference as being intarsia when the different stones are fitted
together chosen by shape and color both, to form a defined
pattern or picture. In inlay, the shape of adjacent stone
pieces is less important, so long as the combination fills the
space both are helping to fill. Sometimes the exact label of a
piece can be fuzzy though. I’ve seen some wonderful pieces where
a picture was created with multiple stones in multiple colors,
but each was in a seperate cell of metal, or at least in it’s
own defined area. Some american indian work is often this way,
and it’s pretty much inlay, but can be very close in effect, to
intarsia. Ask yourself whether in such cases the stones, without
the metal, are what’s defining the pattern, and whether they were
fitted together first, before the whole was set in metal. Or, if
you really want to get confused, my parents have some wonderful
marble tiles and plaques, done in India in the style of the
decorations on the Taj Mahal. These have floral patterns of
flowers and leaves and stems and the like all rendered in
multiple stones, but all dropped into a basic background of
marble. I’ll probably get some who call this pure intarsia, but
to me, it both inlay and intarsia, with the intarsia flowers
inlaid into the marble seperately. Any takers? And then there
are the clear and obvious examples of intarsia. Dennis Adaki’s
work, for example. his exquisite birds and the like, rendered
in multicolored stones, may be inlaid into the silverwork. But
the work is clearly intarsia. And Joe Phettaplace’s work, shown
around the world, includes table sized murals and “paintings”,
all done in exquisitely chosen and seamlessly fitted bits of
agate and other gems, to the point where, sometimes, it’s hard
to even tell that it’s seperate pieces of stone, so carefully are
the adjacent pieces matched to create the graduating colors and
forms of the image he’s depicted. THAT, my friends, is intarsia
at it’s best.

Peter Rowe

  And Joe Phettaplace's work, shown around the world, includes
table sized murals and "paintings", all done in exquisitely
chosen and seamlessly fitted bits of agate and other gems, to
the point where, sometimes, it's hard to even tell that it's
separate pieces of stone, so carefully are the adjacent pieces
matched to create the graduating colors and forms of the image
he's depicted.  THAT, my friends, is intarsia at it's best.

Peter Rowe

I agree, I humbly sit in awe, but every symphony must have an
audience too. I just do not want to sound as dumb as I some
times can be, and sharing knowledge with others in the trade I
think is the best way. So glad for Orchid. Thanks again for
your explanation, it really helped set the process in my mind and
painted a picture I will not forget.



Check out the article about the wonderful intarsia done by my
friend Rick Olmstead, in the January Lapidary Journal. If the
picture of a piece based on a century plant makes the article,
you’ll see the piece I own!



Thanks David,

Also found an article in the January 1998 issue of Lapidary
Journal pg. 20 by Andy Oriel “A Symphony of Stones” an interview
with Rick Olmstead and his description of intarsa. He seems like
a real master.

I acquired a piece by Nicoli Medvida (sp) in Tucson some years
ago that is a treasure, his use of opal, sugilite and turquoise
is shear mastery, it seems to change every time I look at it,
like there are little lights inside the opal, he was able to
capture the opal flash perfectly and with every twist and turn
the whole image changes. Another master is George Mc Connell,
here in the East, he used Nevada opal, sugilite, desert palm and
rhodochrosite in a ring I wear every day. People all over the
world have stopped me to admire at these pieces.

When this art is perfected it is truly a Symphony, but some of
the stuff I’ve seen at shows for less $$$ looks like Elvis on
Velvet, hope this is not a trend. Wonder what will show up in
Tucson this year, can’t go my self but would love to hear from
anyone who does.


Guess, I haven’t seen any of that yet. BUT, some of the other
intarsia I’ve seen has been very good.