marquetry (märˈkətrē) [key], branch of cabinetwork in which a decorative surface of wood or other substance is glued to an object on a single plane. Unlike inlaying, in which the secondary material is sunk into portions of a solid ground cut out to receive it, the technique of marquetry applies both field and pattern material as a veneer of equal thickness. Wood is most often used for the ground, or field, and to a considerable extent also—when of differing color, grain or kind—for the decorative sections. Tortoiseshell, metal, ivory, and bone are also used. The process was derived from the true wood inlay known as intarsia and reached a high point of development in its use by the Dutch in the 17th cent.; subsequently the French were its chief exponents, with the Boulle family (see Boulle, André Charles) creating a distinctive style through the use of copper and tortoiseshell. Marquetry in England was never carried to the heights of elaboration or technical brilliance reached on the Continent, but in the latter part of the 18th cent. work of considerable distinction and refinement was produced.
See M. Campkin, The Technique of Marquetry (1989).