Thanjavur, comes some of the finest examples of embossed metal art work. The beautiful Thanjavur (Tanjore) plates, bowls, napkin rings, jewel boxes etc., made of copper and brass, with motifs drawn from Hindu mythology and encrusted in silver against a finely engraved back ground, exemplify both superlative skill and mastery of materials.
The creation of the Tanjore metal plate is credited to Raja Serfoji II (1797-1832), the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur, who asked his royal artisans to create an object that would reflect the glory of his kingdom. Silver, brass, and copper are encrusted on to each other to create this stunning piece of art. The effect of silver in high relief on the reddish copper ground is unusual and striking. Artisans of the Vishwakarma community follow this hereditary profession in Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu).
This metal plate has as its base a plate of brass prepared by a heavy-metal worker. The relief on copper is worked upon by a jeweler while the encrusting is done by a stone-setter with silver. All the three processes could even be carried out by a single craftsman also. The tools involved include hammers, pincers, molds, punches, chisels, grinding stones and a forge.
The first stage involves cutting the base to the size of plate planned and polishing its front side. It is then fixed firmly to an asphalt bed with a wooden base which is then heated with a blow pipe and leveled so that the basic design die is prepared. The silver and copper sheets are then cut to the size, heated slightly before being cast into an impression on to the die. The impression thus achieved is finished by etching and refining the embossing with the aid of chisels and punches.
The next stage involves encrusting and superimposing the metal sheet(s). This is done by filling with wax made of brick powder, gingili oil, and frankincense the hollow depressions at the back of the relief sheet. The relief sheet is then placed on the base plate and riveted on by punching along the grooves. This is then followed by the final polishing.
Designs on the central circular metallic disc may include a representation of deities like Nataraja, Saraswati, Ashta Lakshmi and Ganapaty while the designs around the central motif can be from the pantheon of Hindu deities or floral designs. Besides plates, other products such as bowls, boxes, key chains and paper weights are made using the same techniques, and paper weights — are made using the same technique. Logos and emblems of corporate houses and organisations have also been embossed.