What Is Marquetry?

The word marquetry defines a certain decorative work process. During this process, an artisan typically inserts material pieces inside of a wooden veneer. This yields desirable and detailed patterns. Generally, the artisan will also later apply these detailed patterns to a specific surface, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary detailed in defining the term. In a conventional sense, the surface will usually be a piece of furniture. Regal-looking home pieces often result. For example, a person who searches for marquetry chairs will find hundreds of results on Etsy, the digital sellers' platform.

As Etymology Online detailed, the word marquetry reflects older French origins. The 1560s French word marqueterie means inlaid work, according to the word history publication. Historically, the word marqueterie comes from the 14th century word marqueter, which means to checker. It is likely that marqueter came from marquer and marque, words attributed to a Germanic source. In a similar sense, the Old English word mearc means trace. While parquetry communicates a specific artisan-based process for placing geometric patterns on wooden floors, marquetry applies to furniture pieces.

Marquetry furniture -- a historical tale

To this point, the 1894 source "The Decorator and Furnisher" focused its report on the marquetry process. The publication noted that for many European art workers of the era learning mere technique was not enough; these creatives had higher aspirations for their craft. Specifically, they wanted to learn how to use their training for a meaningful purpose during the manufacturing process for goods. These artisans also, reportedly, wanted this training to prove essential for people who used the goods. The report distinguished this higher aspiration from the process of making products just for the sake of making the products.

In the contemporary sense though, products with the marquetry descriptor sell at chain entities, smaller shops, and local vendors alike. Likewise, marquetry-related woodworking courses exist online. For people who want to spruce up their living space in the modern day while also having historically-interesting conversation pieces in the abode, marquetry pieces may be the way to go.