Syrian Mother of Pearl

The craft of mosaic wood with MOP from Damascus, Syria, dates back several hundred years.


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The craft of mosaic wood from Damascus, Syria, dates back several hundred years. If you’re looking for that single, defining piece of furniture or a sturdy objet d’art that’s strikingly attractive, Syrian mosaic wood might be the answer.

Although other Islamic nations, notably Egypt, produce similar handicrafts, Syrian mosaic is considered the best in the world for its high standards of quality, precision and beauty. As in the days of yore, the craft is practiced in small family-owned workshops. Naturally, this allows scope for a high degree of individualism in design.

Mosaic wood making is not for the restless! It’s a slow, exacting craft, requiring tremendous patience and accuracy. A variety of woods – peach, apricot, walnut, olive, rose – are selected and cut into geometric shapes in 12”–14” long sticks. Next, the artisan patterns the sticks and glues them with traditional Arabic glue (the making of the glue is another lengthy process, requiring several hours of boiling). Thin layers, measuring approximately 1/8” are sliced and inlaid on the base wood. Next, tiny, perfectly cut mother-of-pearl pieces are inlaid on matching, carved spaces in the wood. Glue is applied over the unfinished surface of the mosaic. The object is then finished by grinding for polish and is then sprayed with a coat of lacquer.

The geometric patterns, often featuring the Islamic star, are an intrinsic aspect of Arabic art. Muted shades of orange, ochre, brown and black combine with the luster of mother-of-pearl to make for exquisite artistry.

Syrian mosaic wood products cover a whole range, from charming pencil boxes, penholders and CD boxes to furniture and fabulous chess or backgammon boards.


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