Marquetry or Veneer
After the Restoration, London became a party town, and life became fashion-driven, sophisticated, and flamboyant. Oak seemed boringly old-fashioned by the glitterati: walnut matched their taste much better, particularly when it was gussied up by a veneer artist.
When a joiner wanted to add some color to his oak, he inlaid contrasting woods, such as holly, boxwood or ebony (or ebonized boxwood,) into the surface of the oak. Inlay is easy to define.
With veneering and marquetry, however, all of the structural wood is covered with large or small pieces of veneer to create an entirely new, patterned surface. The difference between the two is that with veneering, the natural patterns of the grain of the wood are allowed to determine the overall design. With oyster veneer, the veneers are from angled cuts across a three- or four-inch diameter branch.
With marquetry, the grain of the wood does nothing to shape the final pattern: the pattern comes only from the eye of the artist, and the different woods are used like paint to lay it on.
Often, of course, both techniques are used in one design. The lace box lid has oyster veneers (some replaced with burl) in part of the marquetry design. The oyster-veneered table top has marquetry-like circles and loops imposing a man-made design upon the grain of the wood. But overall, the lace box is still marquetry, and the table top still oyster veneered.
Details and more photos of the table
Details and more photos of the lace box