Tag Archives: antique

Inro: a functional art

A circular inro decorated with an Eastern dragon

Inro are small containers that could be roughly described as the handbags or pouches of ancient Japan. They had both practical and esthetical value. Though they usually were square, round or polygonal in shape, a variety of special animal shapes also exist. Over time, these containers came to be extremely luxurious and extravagantly decorated gadgets.

Komai metal inlay jewellery

A lacquered wooden jewellery box with 3 Komai metal inlay bracelets.

Metal inlay jewellery is created through a process called damascening. It involves inlaying a steel ground with thin threads of gold and silver. The ground is then sealed through either oxidisation or via use of lacquer.
The Japanese term for damascene work is zogan (象嵌). The latter encompasses not just metal inlay, but can also describe other inlay techniques. One such example is Gohon Mishima ware, which refers to a type of pottery that is decorated via an inlay technique. In the case of Mishima ware, the material used as both a ground and inlay is clay. Another example is Shibayama inlay (Shibayama zogan), which describes lacquer inlayed with shell, coral, tortoiseshell and ivory.