Torigaski - Japanese process damascene and engraving.

Torigaski - Japanese process damascene and engraving.

Japanese-style Damascene inlay

Inlay is one of Japan's oldest traditional crafts and has a history of over 1000 years. In this long history of inlay art in Japan, Kyoto’s distinct style stands out from the rest, in that metals like pure gold and silver are inlayed into boxes, creating delicate works of art with beautiful shining gold and silver detail on jet-black surfaces.

From the Muromachi period until the Edo Period, these Kyoto damascene were popularly used as ornaments on Japanese swords and armour. More recently, other delicate works such as vase became renowned overseas. Please take the time to appreciate the famous Kyoto’s damascene.

Damascening is the art of inlaying different metals into one another—typically, gold or silver into a darkly oxidized steel background—to produce intricate patterns similar to niello. The English term comes from a perceived resemblance to the rich tapestry patterns of damask silk.

The technique has a long history in Japan, where it was used to decorate katana fittings, particularly tsuba. Known as zougan(象嵌) in Japanese, it has developed its own subset of terms to describe the particular patterns, although "shippou-zougan" is an enamelling technique which most Westerners would consider closer to champlevé. Damascened-inlay jewelry, especially of Japanese origin, is sometimes referred to as shakudo from the use of that alloy as the dark background.

Torigaski collection

Torigaski-2

Torigaski-3

Asian-style engraving

A technique of engraving with hammer and chisel. Most H&C engravers in Europe and the USA use the European or “side hand” technique. In the Asian way of engraving, the engraver holds the chisel in his weak hand, palm up, with the chisel held between the thumb and forefinger. The cutting tip is oriented toward the engraver’s body. The hammer is held in the strong hand and is used to tap the butt of the chisel while cutting. Chisels used in the Asian method are usually shorter (3.5 to 5 inches) than the “long chisel” used in the European method.

Author: Francesca Lombardo - Content Writer