The Interesting History of American Marquetry

Decorating with wood is the best possible way to describe the art of Marquetry. Wooden surfaces of objects are adorned in an ornamental way with veneers. Veneers of multi-colored shades are cut carefully into different sizes and shapes, and these are then pasted onto wooden surfaces in a decorative pattern.

For centuries now, the art of Marquetry has been used to beautify wooden furniture and ornamental objects made of wood. This was an art form popular in the European region since the 17th century. It is this that inspired the American tradition of Marquetry.

German immigrants brought this art form to America in the 19th century. It was vastly different from the mechanized form of the wood industry then. Beautiful pieces of art were created from simple hand tools and some glue.

Americans began to take to Marquetry closer to the time of the Civil War. The obsession with Marquetry then lasted for close to a century. On closer examination of the pieces created then, it is clear that locally available woods like cherry and maple were opted for.

Mahogany and other such exotic woods were imported. Marquetry was further enhanced by the Americans who took to staining wood for more color. The kind of patterns that were thus possible became quite limitless.

There was a huge range available that included simple geometric patterns and the more complex ones that resembled paintings. Around the year 1830 steam powered saw mills came to America. An inch of wood could now be cut into as fine as 15 to 20 layers each.

Most wood workers however, preferred to do things by hand despite such developments in technology. When Marquetry debuted in America it was inspired mainly by European styles. However, the elaborateness of the work was not something the Americans assimilated.

American Marquetry in the early days was propagated mainly by the cabinet makers of Boston and some other artisans who assisted them. Till the end of the World Wars, Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance as well as Louis the XV styles were popular. By the time the World Wars ended, Art Deco became a popular style.

Remy Vriz developed a technique called piercing in the 1980s. Layers of veneer were placed together and the topmost one sanded right down to the level of being practically transparent. American Marquetry specialist Patrice Lejeune further developed this technique.

As a side form of art, Lejeune developed what is called “sprinkling”. Waste from other projects such as sawdust and shavings were collected and used to color pieces of veneer, making them more dynamic. Since its debut American Marquetry has come a long way.

There are a couple of dedicated organizations that constantly work at innovating and promoting the classic and contemporary forms of Marquetry in the country. If you find this interesting, then you should get yourself some formal training in Marquetry.

This article was written by Ruth D’Souza Prabhu of MarqART Gift Shop. Our jewelry boxes feature evocative marqart wood designs, created from unique wood grain patterns and colors. A fine addition to your dressing table or as a gift. Please visit to browse & buy exotic jewelry boxes that will give you a lifetime of pleasure!