Inlay. A piece of metal, usually of contrasting color, set into a base medal, and not rising above the medal's surface. Inlay requires a cavity or channel in the surface of the base medal and a metal inlay formed the exact shape as the cavity. Some handwork is required to hold the separate inlay in place by creating UNDERCUTS around the inside perimeter of the cavity, or, if a contrasting line is desired, at the sides of the channel where a wire is inlayed.Once the inlay is seated in the cavity there are two methods of setting it. One by handwork with a setting punch made of brass tapped lightly to drive the metal of the inlay into the undercuts. A brass punch is used because it is harder than the inlay metal but softer than the work hardened base medal not to damage its surface. Or another method by placing the medal with inlay in place back on the press, with a final blow this drives the inlay metal into the undercuts. This later technique is called impressed design. Inlay differs from appliqué which is a piece soldered onto the base medal and rises above the surface. It also differs from objects found impressed into the surface of struck numismatic items by accident, called impressed error.
excerpted with permission from
For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators
COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY D. WAYNE JOHNSON
Roger W. Burdette, Editor