Intarsia is a form of wood inlaying that is similar to marquetry . The technique of Intarsia inlays sections of wood (at times with contrasting ivory or bone) within the solid matrix; by contrast marquetry assembles a pattern out of veneers upon the carcase. The technique of intarsia is believed to have developed in the Islamic world; introduced into Europe through Sicily, the art was perfected in Vienna and in northern Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, spreading to German centers and introduced into London by Flemish craftsmen in the later sixteenth century. After about 1620, marquetry tended to supplant intarsia in urbane work.
It is the craft of using varied shapes, sizes and species of wood fitted together to create an almost 3-D inlaid, mosaic-like picture. It is thought that the word 'intarsia' is derived from the Latin word 'intersere' which means "to insert" and that it was originally developed in Siena Italy in the 13’th century by crafters using inlays of ivory inserted in wood as well as inlays of wood inserted into wall murals, table tops and other furniture.
Today, intarsia is created by selecting different types of wood, using its natural grain patterns and colours (rather than dyes and stains) to create the different colours in the pattern. Each piece of wood is then individually cut , shaped, and sanded before fitting them together like a jig-saw puzzle and gluing them to a piece of 1/4 inch plywood backing cut to the shape of the final product. Sometimes, additional pieces of plywood are used to raise areas of the pattern to create more depth. Once together, a final layer of finish is applied and the project is complete.