It is a closely protected traditional art and only a few expert exponents are available today. The delicate process involves cutting and engraving marble shapes manually. To start with, a predefined pattern e.g., floral design or geometrical design is engraved on the marble slab. Small pieces of marble of different shades are cut delicately to fit in these grooves precisely. These small pieces are then slipped in the grooves. Apart from marble, many other materials can also be used.
History of Inlay Art:
Inlay work on delicate precious stone began in the workshops of Florence in Italy around the end of the 16th century. This was known as PIETRA DURA.(Pietra= Stone, Dura= Hard) The Italians had created a classic artistic form and held a monopoly over it. From 1630 onwards pietra dura appeared on moveable, small objects as decorative panels, with bird and flower motifs, suitable for cabinet fronts and table tops. Some of these soon reached the Mughals in the form of presents.
Of all the Mughal Emperors, Shah Jahan was the greatest patron of architecture in India. For him no amount of money or time was too much to create enduring, everlasting architectural beauty and through it be remembered always. It is in his buildings that one feels most compelled to make the connection between Mughal art and pietra dura. The Taj Mahal, the cenotaphs of the Emperor and his wife, the main floor and the surrounding marble railings bear very close resemblances to the pietra dura form.