Copper inlaid incense burner dated 11th century, eastern Iran. Aga Khan Museum (AKM602)
Metalwork has enjoyed great prestige in the Islamic world. Although most metalwork objects had utilitarian purposes and served the everyday requirements of their owners, many were regarded as status symbols. As in ancient times, household items made from bronze were valued for their durability and natural beauty. The early vessels used in Muslim societies were based on ancient models and were mostly cast, and their forms embellished with simple grooves; the shiny surfaces and colour nuances of the metals depended on the alloys used.
A variety of bronze alloys based largely on copper, but also using large proportions of tin, lead or zinc were widely used. Subsequently, these items particularly those regarded as status symbols, were inlaid with silver and gold rendering them significantly more valuable.
Pen box, dated 1300, Northwestern Iran
Aga Khan Museum (AKM609)