What Is Bone Inlay?

Bone inlay, also known as intarsia, is a home decor trend in which fragments of bone or shell are adhered to the frame of a furniture piece. It is most commonly used on flat surfaces – such as the sides and tops of tables, or the front of a sideboard. Each furniture piece that comes out of the artisanal process features bone fragments contrasted against a darker background – resulting in a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pattern that works as statement decor in its own right.

How Is Bone Inlay Made?

These types of furniture pieces possess meticulous, mesmerizing patterns – which are a direct result of a generations-old tradition called bone inlaying.Centuries ago, bone-inlaying was an artisan’s craft in India. The process involved – and still does – hours of handcraft work; on average, it takes about a month to produce a bone inlay masterpiece.

The Step-by-Step Process

The process begins by cutting and delicately shaping bone fragments. To fill the space between each fragment, the craftsman will use a malleable material to create contrast and a “background” color. In most cases, this material is resin. After the frame is filled, comes the final step of the process: sanding and waxing for a smooth finish.

What Materials Are Used Besides Bone?

Inlaying furniture doesn’t always involve bone; some of the most popular materials used in the process include shell and/or ivory. Both of these create the same soft white contrast as would actual bone pieces – however, it is also common to see ‘inlay’ furniture designs featuring colorful dyes over the natural white coloring.