Higo inlays originated during the Edo period (1603-1868), when the lord of the Higo Domain (now Kumamoto Prefecture) employed master artisans to decorate sword guards and gun barrels using inlay metalwork. After the carrying of swords by samurai was outlawed in 1870, Higo artisans switched to making decorative accessories and ornaments.
Higo inlays are most commonly made using the "nunome" style where fine lines are engraved onto the iron base, then and gold or silver is laid into the lines. The gold and silver set against the black base gives the piece the feel of elegance and dignity.
Today, Higo inlays are used to make accessories such as pendants, rings, brooches, and tie pins, as well as items like paper knives, kaleidoscopes, and cell phone straps. Higo inlays were also used to make the medals for the 2019 Women's Handball World Championship.
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