Cigar Aficionado

Davidoff Marquetry Humidors

View the ornate images on the humidor from afar and you would swear they had been painted—impressive in itself. But look closer. Those are actually inlaid pieces of wood that make up the lid on Davidoff's Marquetry humidors. Marquetry is a centuries-old process in which an image is composed of tiny pieces of various species of wood arranged like a puzzle. In the modern fast-paced, digitally enhanced world, the patience for this type of work is understandably hard to come by, making these pieces all the more interesting, rare and valuable.

In the case of the limited-edition Davidoff humidors, it is one person, award-winning French wood sculptor Jérôme Boutteçon, who handcrafts each of these images. The painstaking process starts with an exact sketch that is drawn on paper and then sliced up into various segments with a straight razor. The artist then chooses from an array of 150 different wood veneers with varying shades and grains suited to the design and color scheme. The paper sections serve as stencils to cut pieces from the wood. The pieces of wood, some not more than a fraction of an inch, are grouped in a wooden box in the order they will be applied. Each piece is coated with adhesive and mounted onto a piece of paper (which is later removed with warm water). Once the picture is assembled, it is covered with adhesive kraft paper and fastened onto a solid wood base. The kraft paper is removed to reveal the completed motif, which is then brushed with beeswax to summon the natural colors in the wood. Certain sections prior to being affixed are scorched in places, in a process called hot sand shading that softens the lines.

Finally, the panel is inserted into the lid of a Davidoff humidor. The 2004 release featured images from Egyptian antiquity. The 2005 release (pictured) celebrates the fine arts of Japan.

Boutteçon uses a huge foot pedal—operated saw/drafting table that he designed and built. On the crossbar is a the slogan written in French, which translated means, "To know is easy. The hardest part is to do." Apropos.

Each Davidoff Marquetry humidor is numbered and issued in a limited-edition series of 10 maximum. Over the past five years, Boutteçon, who has worked exclusively for the company since 1990, has completed more than 30 different Davidoff Marquetry humidors. The humidors can also be made to order. They range in price from $4,500 to $16,000 and beyond.