The Khas Mahal which consisted of three sections served as the Mughal Emperors’ private residence inside the Red Fort. It has its own ornamental pool and a beautiful garden in the Charbagh style
The Agra Fort is a masterpiece of medieval architecture, reminiscent of a great legacy. Its visually stunning marble and red sandstone palaces, mosques and pavilions reveal the incomparable aesthetic sentiment of the Mughals and the architectural representations of their royal life, art and culture.
All the historical forts around the world are filled with stories and memories that give life to the stones that make up their physical structure. The Agra Fort in India holds this type of history behind its doors, in its walls, and all the way down to its firm foundations. In order to understand the architectural aesthetics of this fort, an exploration of its history helps. A millennium ago, the Agra Fort had a different name. It was attacked and occupied in 1080 by the ruling governor of Hind, Mahmud Shah, according to the historical writings of the 11th century poet Salman.
Front view of the Red Fort in Agra and the main entrance. The gigantic red sandstone walls and ramparts of the fort were once equipped with canons and bow & arrows © isaray / Shutterstock
Time passed and the Sultan of Delhi adopted Agra as his capital city from 1487 to 1517. It flourished as a center of culture and knowledge. Badalgarh Fort was built in eight years by order of Raja Badal Singh on the same plot of land. Sikandar Lodi’s death in December 1517 began a nine-year reign by his son, Ibrahim Lodi, who oversaw the addition of a palace from 1518 to 1526 on the same property.
The year they finished the palace, Babur invaded India and won many battles against Ibrahim Lodi in Panipat. The foreign army conquered and occupied the fort at Agra, killed the Raja of Gwalior, and imprisoned his family. Babur’s son, Humayun, took over as leader at the fort, laying claim to the treasures hidden behind its walls. A collection of rare and wondrous gems including the ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond fell into his possession. In 1527, Babur ordered the building of a three-story stepwell, or baoli. Visitors can still see it today. The fort changed hands again in 1540 when the Sur dynasty’s Sher Shah defeated Humayun at Bilgram, but he only held it for five years before it was attacked yet again.
For over 200 years a 2km/1.9-mile-long moat surrounding the fort safe- guarded it from hostile invasions © Julian52000 / Shutterstock
In 1556 the Mughal army came to the region to wage a second battle. Iskandar Khan successfully held the fort until Akbar arrived in 1558. He then transformed the occupied fort into the Mughal Empire’s capital city and the Dar’ul Khilafat. To fully stake his claim, he also changed the name of the city to Akbarabad. For almost 100 years, this new capital was free from battles and bloodshed. It flourished and grew throughout the medieval period to become a grand power in that part of the world.
Its long and embattled past left its scars on the buildings so Akbar orchestrated a complete tear-down of the Badalgarh Fort in 1565. The overseer of buildings, Muhammad Qasim Khan, planned and supervised the design and construction of a new fort in the same location. Artisans and architects from faraway places like Bengal and Gujarat came to help with the design and fulfill Akbar’s vision. For eight years 3000 builders, masons, and laborers toiled to bring it to fruition. Within the fortress walls, a collection of palaces, residences, mosques, gardens, pavilions, and hammams were built. They worked with dressed red sandstone, an unusual choice as it had never been used in such a massive architectural landmark project before. The culmination of this massive project resulted in an unsurpassed masterpiece of Mughal architecture.
Akbar wanted an imposing fortress to be the crowning glory of his world, but he also appreciated the beauty of the artistic styles and accents that were popular in the culture of the day. While battlements, embrasures and string-courses pointed to majesty and strength, the inclusion of Islamic geometry, calligraphy and the favorite flowers, birds, and beasts of Hindu aesthetics produced a truly unique and glorious example of architectural excellence.
Fort Agra is surrounded by an impregnable double wall constructed of red sandstone. It runs almost straight along the Yamuna River and continues for 2.4km/1.5 miles in a semi-circular shape around the fort. The outer wall is lower than the inner wall and both are fortified with crenulated battlements. Both walls have double ramparts interspaced with massive round bastions, all aligned with one another. The perimeter walls have a height of 21m/69ft and has only been breached once by the English at the time of the 1857 Indian Rebellion. A 10m/33ft deep moat, 9m/30ft across lends extra protection against enemy invasions.
A plan of the crescent shaped Red Fort of Agra
Abu ‘l Fazl, the court historian of Akbar, mentions in Ain-i-Akbari that Akbar has built more than 500 red stone buildings in the fortress complex. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the original architectural creations has survived.
The eastern wall that runs almost in a straight line along the Yamuna River. The river was once the natural barrier of the fort, guarding it from enemy invasion on the east side © Don Mammoser / Shutterstock
There are four entrance gates leading into the Red Fort, namely the Amar Singh to the south, the Delhi Gate to the west, the Jal Darwaza on the east side facing the river, and the Darshani Gate to the north. Of these only the latter is used today as the main entrance into the fort.
Of the structures that remained in a fairly good condition since the time of Akbar are the Akbari and Jahangiri Mahals, formerly the Bengal Mahal (1568 to 1569), the southern Amar Singh Gate (1568 to 1569) and the west facing Delhi Gate (1568 to1569). These buildings give a good indication of the high architectural and aesthetic standards of its creator, Akbar.
Both the Amar Singh and Delhi Gates have additional fortifications like raised walls, strong bastions, trapping points and crooked entrances to confuse and keep out possible invaders. These features also provided extra safety for the soldiers who were firing at the attackers. Because of the fort’s almost impregnable fortifications, the Moghuls felt safe and secure enough to keep their valuable treasures stored in the underground vaults.
The second grand entrance gate to Agra Fort. One can see the beautiful fusion of white marble and red sandstone © powerofforeever
The third of the impressive, grand entrance gates into the Red Fort in Agra © f11photo / Shutterstock
The third entrance to Fort Agra still has its original colorful 16th century ceramic tiles decorating the red sandstone towers © Vivvi Smak / Shutterstock
In 1565 Akbar started the construction of the Jahangiri Mahal as a private residence for his son Jahangiri, incorporating parts of the former Ibrahim Lodi Palace built in 1518. These parts form the east and northeast sections of the large new palace and can easily be distinguished by their exceptional aesthetic standards and building techniques.
In 1605 after the death of his father, Jahangiri became ruler of the empire. Although he spent more time in Kashmir and Lahore, he paid regular visits to Agra, staying in the Red Fort on these occasions.
In 1628 Shah Jahan, third son of Jahangiri, became the next Mughal Emperor and promptly started to replace most of Akbar’s structures in the Red Fort with his own marble creations. Most important amongst these are the Nagina and Mina Masjids, the octagonal Jasmine Tower, also known as the Musamman Burj, and the Audience Hall or Diwan-i-Aam, all constructed between 1631 and 1640.
The royal courtyard in Fort Agra is reached by walking up a slightly inclining ramp flanked by high walls © Images of India / Shutterstock
Diwan-i-Am and the large courtyard
The Amar Singh Gate, previously reserved for use by the emperor and his entourage exclusively, is now the main entrance to the fort. It consists of three different gates, built close together but at right angles to cause confusion amongst invaders and prevent them from using their weapons in the tight space. A gently ascending ramp between high walls leads to another gate which opens onto the large inner courtyard with trees lining the lawns. A three-sided portico commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1628 to replace a former wooden structure leads to the imposing Audience Hall or Diwan-i-Aam. The perfect proportions of the hall with its columns supporting engraved arches allow an uninterrupted view of the raised throne on which the emperor sat to listen to petitions. In days of old the hall would have been elegantly furnished with rugs, satin canopies and rich brocade. The Diwan-i-Aam was also the venue for the Nauroz Festival held during Mughal times with great pizazz and fervor. Persian and Gujarat gold cloth, European umbrellas and drapes, brocades from China and Constantinople, and brocaded velvet lent grandeur to the interior during the festivities.
The ornate throne, built to house a gemstone-encrusted Peacock Throne seat, was eventually brought to Delhi to be plundered by Nadir Shah and later ended up in Tehran, Iran. The throne room was decorated with three-winged arches, recessed niches and inlaid marble, and was connected to the royal chambers. Perforated marble windows on both sides (right and left) of the throne room allowed the royal ladies to observe the events at Diwan-i-Aam from the privacy of their chambers. At that time, the throne chamber was known as the Throne Room or Nasheman-e-Zill-e-ilahi or Jharoka-e-Daulat Khana. In front of the niche, was the baithak, a small marble table where the ministers sat down to receive requests and orders. Here, too, trials took place and justice was swiftly served and executed.
The area north of the Diwan-i-Aam courtyard is closed to visitors, although the delicate white marble domes and chhatris of the striking, if rather clumsy Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque can be seen protruding above the courtyard walls. Just outside Diwan-i-Aam, an inappropriately gothic Christian tomb marks the grave of John Russell Colvin, Lieutenant Governor of the Northwestern Provinces, who died here during the 1857 uprising when Agra’s British population barricaded themselves inside the fort.
After going through the three grand entrances, the fourth one brings you to the inner complex of the Red Fort of Agra. Visitors are always astounded by the massive size of the fort complex © Savvapanf Photo / Shutterstock
The Peacock Throne in the Public Audience Hall (Diwan-i-Aam in Persian). This is where the Mughal Emperors sat to address the general public to listen to their grievances. Today the famous throne is still adorned with its original semi-precious stones inlaid in white marble
Exterior view of the Diwan-i-Aam with double column architecture. Public meetings were held here by the Mughal Emperors, Agra Fort
Local visitors try to peer down an ancient well at the Agra Fort. The well is covered for safety’s sake
A lady leans on a large ancient well with the white marble Moti Mosque in the background behind a red sandstone wall. This mosque inside the Red Fort Complex in Agra was used exclusively by the royal family members during Mughal times © Yurataranik / Dreamstime
The Macchi Bhavan and Diwan-i-Khas
To reach the upper level of Macchi Bhavan or Fish Palace, one has to pass through a tiny door left of the throne inside the Diwan-i-Aam and ascend the stairs. This double storied structure around a spacious courtyard was once the treasury for royal ornaments and jewels. It is believed that the large courtyard contained water tanks and channels teeming with fish for the emperor and his friends’ angling entertainment. Fountains and flower beds further adorned the garden. Some of the marble of the building was later stripped by the Maharaja of Bharatpur for his Deeg Palace, while William Bentick who served as the governor general between 1828 and 1835 sold most of the original fretwork and mosaics of the Macchi Bhavan.
The so-called Fish Palace or Macchi Bhavan with its spacious courtyard once filled with bodies of water teeming with fish for the emperor’s entertainment © Club4Traveler
Divan-i-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience has arches with double columns. Here the Mughal Emperors held private meetings with their nobles and dignitaries from around the world © efired
Delicate semi-precious stone inlay work and decoration on a marble column in the Private Audience Hall of Agra Fort. The same inlay work can be seen in the Taj Mahal © Powerofforever
A private little mosque done completely in pure white marble is situated to the north of the courtyard. Called the Nagina Masjid or Gem Mosque, it is separated into three sections by the three arches of the façade and has three majestic domes which cover the prayer chamber. Shah Jahan built this simple but impressive mosque for the exclusive use of his harem or the ladies of zenana. From a small balcony, shielded from the outside world by a filigreed carved panel they could purchase luxury items like jewelry, brocades and silk from merchants displaying their wares in the courtyard below.
Nagina Mosque in Agra Fort. This mosque was built exclusively for the ladies of the royal family © Roop_Dey
A southern pavilion with an elevated terrace on the opposite side of the Macchi Bhavan served as a smaller reception area. On the terrace are a black slate throne and a white marble one. An inscription on the black throne has the date 1602. Shah Jahan sat on the marble throne while his father Jahangir was seated on the black throne, watching elephant fights taking place in the eastern enclosure as a young man. Inlaid in black stone a Persian inscription dating to 1636 calls the emperor the sun and the space the sky. Today it is a favorite photograph spot for couples with the Taj Mahal that makes for a lovely background.
Takht-i-Jahangir, the throne of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in Agra fort. The throne is made of rare black marble and Arabic verses from the Quran are inscribed around the throne
Opposite the black throne of the Emperor Jahangir one can see the white marble throne, which was meant for the princes of the Mughal family. On the right hand side is the pillared Diwan-i-Khas or Private Audience Hall. This platform offers a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal © Rolf_52 / Shutterstock
Overlooking the river, to benefit from the breeze cooled down by the water, to the right, a high terrace supports a number of roomy royal apartments. Amongst them is the beautifully decorated Hall of Audience, the Diwan-i-Khas, dating back to 1635, where the Mughal Emperor held audiences with visiting dignitaries, ambassadors and kings. It was adorned with peacock bows inlaid with jasper and lapis lazuli, and numerous marble columns.
Shah Jahan’s private palace, the Khas Mahal was built in 1636 and consists of three parts. Under the cleverly designed flat ceiling with its cavities to bring down the oppressive summer temperature in the rooms, the emperor could relax in comfort looking out onto the garden and soothing river below. His Royal Bed Chamber or Aramgah-e-Muqaddas as described by Hamid Lahauri, is considered one of Shah Jahan’s architectural masterpieces. Flanking the royal palace are two Golden Pavilions, so called for the gold tiles that once covered the curved roofs. Curved roofs later became an essential feature of Rajput architecture and was inspired by the shape of the thatched roofs of Bengali huts. The original purpose of the pavilions is not clear but they are rumoured to have belonged to the shah’s two daughters, Jahan Ara Begum and Roshan Ara Begum.
Reflection of the Marble Palace in the ornamental pool. The Khas Mahal served as the private chambers of the Mughal Emperor and is seen here with the Charbagh style garden © Yurataranik / Dreamstime
A tourist at the Khas Mahal or Private Chambers of the Emperor admiring one of the few remaining wall paintings © Pamela Loreto Perez
This panel in the marble palace of the emperor is deliberately made of thin slabs of marble so that it remains translucent. The decorations on the panel which remained since ancient times start glowing when sunlight falls on it. It is a true architectural marvel © Kevin Standage
This gold painted decoration in the private chamber of the emperor has been restored by the Archaeological Survey of India to show visitors the former glory of the palace when the interior walls of the entire palace were painted in gold © Marcin
In 1637 Shah Jahan commissioned the layout of the rectangular Anguri Bagh, a Charbagh style garden adjoining his palace to the west. In soil brought all the way from Kashmir’s saffron gardens, he planted sweet smelling flowers and grapes. The so-called Garden of Grapes served as a pleasant private retreat for the ladies living in the red sandstone zenana apartments which flanked the garden on three sides. In the northeaster corner of the Khas Mahal a series of steps leads down to the Shish Mahal or Chrystal Palace. Here the royal ladies could relax in a lavish space decorated with intricate mirror mosaics and colored glass inlaid in the white marble ceiling and walls. In the lamp light, it must have resembled a fairy world of sparling lights. Unfortunately for visitors, this building is currently closed to the public, so the only views are through the windows.
The Anguri Bagh gardens surrounded by living quarters in the Marble Palace in the Red Fort. These garden were once filled with Indian grapevines used for making wine during the Mughal period © Venemama
Golden roofed palanquin shaped pavilions can be found on both sides of the Khas Mahal, the Sleeping Chambers of the King. These pavilions were the living quarters of the two favorite daughters of Emperor Shah Jahan © Yakov Oskanov
The Taj Mahal in the distance is framed by one of the arches of the palanquin shaped Golden Pavilion © Belikova Oksana
The corridor leads to a two-story pavilion, the Musamman Burj, the most elaborate structure of the fort and known as the place where he was said to enjoy his last glimpse of the Taj Mahal before his death. The front hall of the Musamman Burj is richly decorated with beautiful patterns of rare marble filigree work – a sign of a high degree of mastery and craftsmanship. Its dados are adorned with carved plants and Chinese clouds. The niches in the interiors are decorated with exquisite inlays that cover almost every surface. Polychrome marble and semi-precious stones have been used extensively to sculpt floral and plant motifs, mainly of jasmine flowers. This marble palace was decorated with the same pietra dura inlay used in the Taj Mahal. The octagonal tower reaches upwards over the most prominent round bastion on the river side. Only five of its octagonal sides protrude to the front. This palace has a beautifully inlaid and richly decorated recessed tank carved in the shape of a stylized lotus, with a fountain. In front of the tower is a courtyard paved with marble edges, on which the emperor played Pachisi, an ancient board game similar to Ludo, just like his grandfather Akbar used to play in his citadel Fatehpur Sikri with his dancing girls.
Beautiful perspective of Musamman Burj, the Jasmine Tower and the Yamuna River taken from the platform of Diwan-i-Khas, the Hall of Private Audience. This was the place where Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife, was put under house arrest for 16 years. The emperor died in this tower © Roop_Dey / Shutterstock
Close-up view of the Musamman Burj or Jasmine Tower overlooking the River Yamuna, where the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was held captive by his son Aurangzeb. This is one of the most beautiful structures in the fort and offers an uninterrupted view of the Taj Mahal. This is also the place where Shah Jahan died © My Good Images / Shutterstock
Interior of the Golden Pavilion in the Jasmine Tower with a fountain and pietra dura semi-precious stone work in white marble © Yakov Oskanov / Shutterstock
Close-up view of the pietra dura inlay work in one of the towers of the Jasmine Tower Palace of Agra Fort © yong922760 / Shutterstock
There are several open pavilions in the fort that offer panoramic views of the distant Taj Mahal and the Yamuna River. In this image from one such pavilion you have the view of the dry river bed of the Yamuna during the summer season © Edwin Remsberg
The Jahangiri Mahal is a massive building with an equally impressive façade. Constructed in red sandstone with beautiful geometric designs in white marble, the palace is one of the few original structures to survive intact. It was built by Akbar, Jahangir’s father as a private residence, hence the name. However, it is clear that it was built with maximum privacy in mind and was actually used as living quarters for Akbar’s harem. His principal wife, Jodhbai is thought to have lived in a part of the palace. It displays a good mixture of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles, combined with typical Mughal designs similar to the other buildings in the fort.
The façade of the Jahangiri Mahal in Agra Fort. The palaces in this part of the fort are constructed from red sandstone contrary to the marble palaces which were added later. This part is the oldest in the fort and survived intact in its full glory © Andrew
The first courtyard displays a rather random mixture of both elements, but the remarkable central courtyard is almost entirely Hindu, with characteristic Indian collared arches and richly carved pillars and capitals bearing heavy overhanging eaves. On top of this a second floor with even more fantastic balconies supported by roof consoles rises. The courtyard is flanked by large halls, with one ceiling to the north side supported by huge stone beams carved with fantastic mythological animals, including a serpentine shape emerging from the mouth of a dragon. This entire section of the palace marks a decisive, albeit temporary change in Mughal architecture. While the design of former Mughal buildings was essentially Islamic and was gently modified by the inclusion of some Hindu motifs, here the few Islamic motifs, such as the pointed arches on the upper floors, are more or less buried under an abundance of Hindu design elements – a mix and match style, which can also be seen in Akbar’s palace complex in Fatehpur Sikri. The whole concept seems to be the logical architectural result of the tolerant embrace of rival religions and cultures that Akbar achieved during his enlightened rule. However, the rather random mixing of Hindu and Islamic elements, as exemplified by this palace, was soon replaced by the classical synthesis of Persian and subcontinental styles that Shah Jahan achieved in works such as the Taj Mahal
The courtyard of the Jahangir Mahal in the Red Fort of Agra. Decorated with different Hindu elements, balconies, halls and a Hindu temple, this is also the complex where the Hindu wife of the Mughal Emperor Akbar resided © Images of India / Shutterstock
An especially elegant fountain in the Jahangir Mahal inside the Red Fort Complex © Powerofforever
Beautifully carved stone brackets in one of the intact royal palaces in the Red Fort Complex © Ruslan Kalnitsky / Shutterstock
A red sandstone arch with intricately carved adornments. Although an Islamic fort, many decorative elements are from Hindu mythology. For example, the carved bells in sandstone in the Jahangir Palace is an element typical of Hindu temples © Zzvet
Ceiling of the Jahangir Palace in the Red Fort of Agra
Passing through an entrance via the main gate one arrives in the palace. The imposing façade is an interesting mix of Indian and Mughal motifs combined with inlaid mosaics and pointed arches with overhanging Hindu eaves held by deeply arched consoles. Jahangir’s Hauz is a huge cistern, carved from a single piece of porphyry, facing the entrance of the palace. It was carved in 1611 and has both internal and external steps enabling the emperor to bathe in the rose water it was filled with. There are even rumors that he took it along on his travels, but considering its weight, it is hard to believe.
Jahangir’s enormous bathtub, called the Jahangir Hauz faces the palace. Circular in form, it was carved from a single granite block, 2.4m in diameter, 1.22 in depth and with a circumference of 7.62m. It might have been used by the ladies of the harem in Mughal time. According to a Persian inscription in Nasta’liq script it was built in 1611
Signs resembling the Star of David adorn the entrance to the Jahangir Palace. However, this design, also used in Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi has nothing to do with the Jewish symbol. It is actually a Hindu element symbolic of the Muruga, formed by both the male aspect of the Hindu god and goddess Shiva, and the female Shakti version to make up the whole. Like the yin and yang in Chinese culture, the two intersecting triangles representing the two parts of the whole, each one pointing in the opposite direction of the other
The lower part of Jahangir Palace is finely carved in red sandstone with beautiful floral motifs and designs created by inlay work of white and black marble in red sandstone © Eillen
Shah Jahan moved his capital to Delhi in 1638. However, he continued to use Agra Fort as his residence. As time went by, Shah Jahan’s beautiful home became his prison. He was placed under house arrest by his son Aurangzeb in 1657 for political reasons. The last nine years of his life were spent imprisoned in his home in Agra Fort from where he had a view of the magnificent Taj Mahal. But more important to Shah Jahan was what lay in the mausoleum in the Taj Mahal ― the body of Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite queen and the woman he loved dearly.
Shah Jahan died on January 22, 1666 at the age of 75 years. In those days, the River Yamuna connected with the fort on the eastern side. Hence, they lowered Shah Jahan’s body and took it out through the Water Gate on the eastern side. It was no surprise that his last request was to be laid to rest next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal at the Taj Mahal. His wish was granted.
Tomb chamber of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal in Taj Mahal, Agra
After Shah Jahan’s death, the glory of Agra Fort faded despite the fact that Aurangzeb, though busy with conflicts in the Deccan, would visit the fort and hold durbar or audiences there.
After Aurangzeb died in 1707, the Mughal Empire started to decline. It became fragmented to the point of no return. Between 1761 and 1774, the Jats took over control of the Agra Fort. In 1784, Mahadji Scindia and the Marathas claimed the throne and maintained their control until the year 1803. It changed hands again when the British forces led by Lord Lake took over.
From the years 1803 to 1862 most of the fort’s architectural landmarks were destroyed by the British. They did this to make room for constructing barracks for their men. Suraj Mal, the Jat leader at the time, carried the marble tanks to Bharatpur while he had control of the fort. In Deeg in Rajasthan, Mal used the marble tanks to decorate his garden.
The British forces did not attack the fort. However, in 1857, while the Great Mutiny took place, over 4,000 Europeans claimed shelter inside. One of these Europeans was John Russel Colvin, who had been the North-Western Provinces’ Lieutenant Governor. On September 9th, 1857, he died at the fort of cholera. A tomb was set up for his burial next to Diwan-i-Aam, the Public Audience Hall in the Fort.
The grave of John Russel Colvin, the British Lieutenant Governor of the Northwestern Provinces, who died in the fort of cholera on September 9, 1857. He was buried in front of the Diwan-i-Aam © Arif Areeman / Shutterstock
To this day, Agra Fort is a prominent historical site rich in antiquity and it chronicles centuries of past events. Its beautiful architecture and long history combine to create a compelling narrative. The remarkable and explicit character of Agra Fort earned it its rightful place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and the well-deserved Aga Khan Award for Architecture. These awards reflect Agra Fort’s worthiness of being preserved for posterity. However, it is difficult to capture the exceptional intellectual and creative ability that brought this fort into existence.
Tip: Keep in mind that there are nowhere to buy drinks anywhere in the fort, and exploring the complex can be tedious. Therefore, it is essential to bring your own water.
A laborer prepares sandstones for the renovation of the Red Fort. Due to its vast size, renovation and repair works are frequently done and is an ongoing . The fort was mentioned for the first time in 1080 © travelview / Shutterstock
Near the Red Fort many souvenir shops sell items like these marble and stone elephants, inlaid table tops and vases. The items are inlaid with semiprecious stones, turning them into exquisite pieces of artwork