Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures.
The veneers used are primarily woods, but have included bone, ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, and fine metals. Common, as well as exotic woods, are used from the near-white of boxwood to the near-black of ebony. Woods that retain stains well are also used to provide colors not available in nature.
Marquetry had its inspiration in 16th century Florence and Naples. Techniques of wood marquetry were developed for luxury cabinet making in Flemish centers. In the mid-17th century French furniture of unprecedented luxury was made to decorate the royal residences of Louis XIV. Tiling patterning has been more highly developed in the Islamic world and many extraordinary examples of inlay work have come from the Middle East.
Modern marquetry commonly uses knife-cut veneers, requiring a lot of time. Some artists use a scroll saw or lasers to cut the patterns.
(Excerpt from Wikipedia)
For a more detailed history of marquetry check out Stuart King’s website at www.stuartking.co.uk.