Lapidary

Lapidary

Overview



A lapidary is an artist or artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

 who forms stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

, mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

, gemstone
Gemstone
A gemstone or gem is a piece of mineral, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments...

s, and other suitably durable materials (amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

, shell, jet
Jet (lignite)
Jet is a geological material and is considered to be a minor gemstone. Jet is not considered a true mineral, but rather a mineraloid as it has an organic origin, being derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure....

, pearl
Pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

, copal
Copal
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

, coral
Coral (precious)
Precious coral or red coral is the common name given to Corallium rubrum and several related species of marine coral. The distinguishing characteristic of precious corals is their durable and intensely colored red or pink skeleton, which is used for making jewelry.-Habitat:Red corals grow on rocky...

, horn
Horn (anatomy)
A horn is a pointed projection of the skin on the head of various animals, consisting of a covering of horn surrounding a core of living bone. True horns are found mainly among the ruminant artiodactyls, in the families Antilocapridae and Bovidae...

 and bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

, glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 and other synthetics) into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos, or cabochon
Cabochon
A cabochon , from the Middle French caboche , is a gemstone which has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. The resulting form is usually a convex top with a flat bottom. Cutting en cabochon is usually applied to opaque gems, while faceting is usually applied to transparent stones...

s, and facet
Facet
Facets are flat faces on geometric shapes. The organization of naturally occurring facets was key to early developments in crystallography, since they reflect the underlying symmetry of the crystal structure...

ed designs. Hardstone carving
Hardstone carving
Hardstone carving is a general term in art history and archaeology for the carving for artistic purposes of semi-precious stones, also known as gemstones, such as jade, rock crystal , agate, onyx, jasper, serpentine or carnelian, and for an object made in this way. Normally the objects are small,...

 is the term in art history for the objects produced and the craft. Diamond cutters
Diamond cutting
Diamond cutting is the art, skill and, increasingly, science of changing a diamond from a rough stone into a faceted gem. Cutting diamond requires specialized knowledge, tools, equipment, and techniques because of its extreme difficulty....

 are generally not referred to as lapidaries, due to the specialized techniques which are required to work diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

.
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Encyclopedia



A lapidary is an artist or artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

 who forms stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

, mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

, gemstone
Gemstone
A gemstone or gem is a piece of mineral, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments...

s, and other suitably durable materials (amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

, shell, jet
Jet (lignite)
Jet is a geological material and is considered to be a minor gemstone. Jet is not considered a true mineral, but rather a mineraloid as it has an organic origin, being derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure....

, pearl
Pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

, copal
Copal
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

, coral
Coral (precious)
Precious coral or red coral is the common name given to Corallium rubrum and several related species of marine coral. The distinguishing characteristic of precious corals is their durable and intensely colored red or pink skeleton, which is used for making jewelry.-Habitat:Red corals grow on rocky...

, horn
Horn (anatomy)
A horn is a pointed projection of the skin on the head of various animals, consisting of a covering of horn surrounding a core of living bone. True horns are found mainly among the ruminant artiodactyls, in the families Antilocapridae and Bovidae...

 and bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

, glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 and other synthetics) into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos, or cabochon
Cabochon
A cabochon , from the Middle French caboche , is a gemstone which has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. The resulting form is usually a convex top with a flat bottom. Cutting en cabochon is usually applied to opaque gems, while faceting is usually applied to transparent stones...

s, and facet
Facet
Facets are flat faces on geometric shapes. The organization of naturally occurring facets was key to early developments in crystallography, since they reflect the underlying symmetry of the crystal structure...

ed designs. Hardstone carving
Hardstone carving
Hardstone carving is a general term in art history and archaeology for the carving for artistic purposes of semi-precious stones, also known as gemstones, such as jade, rock crystal , agate, onyx, jasper, serpentine or carnelian, and for an object made in this way. Normally the objects are small,...

 is the term in art history for the objects produced and the craft. Diamond cutters
Diamond cutting
Diamond cutting is the art, skill and, increasingly, science of changing a diamond from a rough stone into a faceted gem. Cutting diamond requires specialized knowledge, tools, equipment, and techniques because of its extreme difficulty....

 are generally not referred to as lapidaries, due to the specialized techniques which are required to work diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

. Gemcutter
Gemcutter
A gemcutter, is a person who cuts, shapes, and polishes natural and synthetic gemstones. In historical use it usually refers to an artist who made hardstone carvings or engraved gems, a branch of miniature sculpture or ornament in gemstone....

 typically refers to diamond cutters or producers of faceted jewels in modern contexts, but artists producing engraved gems, jade carvings and the like in older historical contexts.

The arts of a sculptor
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 or stonemason do not generally fall within the definition, though chiseling inscriptions in stone, and preparing laboratory 'thin sections' may be considered lapidary arts. But, figurative engraved gems and cameos are certainly the work of artists. In modern contexts, the term is most commonly associated with jewelry and decorative household items (e.g. bookends, clock faces, ornaments, etc.) A specialized form of lapidary work is the inlay
Inlay
Inlay is a decorative technique of inserting pieces of contrasting, often coloured materials into depressions in a base object to form patterns or pictures that normally are flush with the matrix. In a wood matrix, inlays commonly use wood veneers, but other materials like shells, mother-of-pearl,...

ing of marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 and gemstones into a marble matrix, known in English as "pietra dura
Pietra dura
Pietra dura or pietre dure , called parchin kari in South Asia, is a term for the technique of using cut and fitted, highly-polished colored stones to create images. It is considered a decorative art...

" for the hardstone
Hardstone
Hardstone is a Kenyan musician. His music is a mixture of ragga, reggae and hiphop. He sings in English, Swahili and Kikuyu languages...

s like onyx
Onyx
Onyx is a banded variety of chalcedony. The colors of its bands range from white to almost every color . Commonly, specimens of onyx contain bands of black and/or white.-Etymology:...

, jasper
Jasper
Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. This mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases, seals, and at one time for...

 and carnelian
Carnelian
Carnelian is a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker...

 that are used, but called in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, where the technique was developed in the 16th century, opere di commessi. The Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo
Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze
The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the largest churches of Florence, Italy, situated at the centre of the city’s main market district, and the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III...

 in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 is completely veneered with inlaid hard stones. The specialty of "micromosaics", developed from the late 18th century in Naples and Rome, in which minute slivers of glass are assembled to create still life, cityscape views and the like, is sometimes covered under the umbrella term of lapidary. In China, lapidary work specializing in jade
Chinese jade
Chinese jade is any of the carved-jade objects produced in China from the Neolithic Period onward. The Chinese regarded carved-jade objects as intrinsically valuable...

 carving has been continuous since at least the Shang dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

.

Categories


Apart from figurative carving, there are three broad categories of lapidary arts. These are the procedures of tumbling
Tumble polishing
Tumble finishing, also known as tumbling or rumbling, is a technique for smoothing and polishing a rough surface on relatively small parts...

, cabochon cutting
Cabochon
A cabochon , from the Middle French caboche , is a gemstone which has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. The resulting form is usually a convex top with a flat bottom. Cutting en cabochon is usually applied to opaque gems, while faceting is usually applied to transparent stones...

, and faceting. The distinction is somewhat loose, and leaves a broad range within the term cabochon. The picture to the left is of a rural, commercial cutting operation in Thailand. This small factory cuts thousands of carats of sapphire annually.
Most lapidary work is done using motorized equipment and resin or metal bonded diamond tooling in successively decreasing particle sizes until a polish is achieved. Often, the final polish will use a different medium, such as tin oxide
Tin oxide
Tin oxide may refer to:* Tin oxide , SnO* Tin dioxide , SnO2...

, glasitite or cerium(IV) oxide
Cerium(IV) oxide
Cerium oxide, also known as ceric oxide, ceria, cerium oxide or cerium dioxide, is an oxide of the rare earth metal cerium...

. Older techniques, still popular with hobbyists, used bonded grinding wheels of silicon carbide
Silicon carbide
Silicon carbide , also known as carborundum, is a compound of silicon and carbon with chemical formula SiC. It occurs in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite. Silicon carbide powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive...

, with only using a diamond tipped saw. Diamond cutting
Diamond cutting
Diamond cutting is the art, skill and, increasingly, science of changing a diamond from a rough stone into a faceted gem. Cutting diamond requires specialized knowledge, tools, equipment, and techniques because of its extreme difficulty....

, because of the extreme hardness
Mohs scale of mineral hardness
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is one of several definitions of hardness in...

 of diamonds, cannot be done with silicon carbide, and requires the use of diamond tools.

There are also many other forms of lapidary, not just cutting and polishing stones and gemstones. These include: casting, faceting, carving, jewellery, mosaics (eg. little slices of opal on potch, obsidian or another black stone and with a clear dome (glass or crystal quartz) on top. There are lapidary clubs
Lapidary clubs
Lapidary clubs promote popular interest and education in lapidary, the craft of working, forming and finishing stone, minerals and gemstones. These clubs sponsor and provide means for their members to engage in all forms of jewellery making, cabochon cutting and faceting, carving, glass beadmaking...

 throughout the world. In Australia there are numerous gemshows including an annual gemshow, the Gemborree which is a nation-wide lapidary competition. There is a collection of gem and mineral shows held in Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States. The city is located 118 miles southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 2010 United States Census puts the city's population at 520,116 with a metropolitan area population at 1,020,200...

, at the beginning of February each year. This group of shows constitutes the largest gem and mineral event in the world. The event was originally started with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show and has now grown to include dozens of other independent shows.

Secondary meanings


A secondary meaning of lapidary is pertaining to, about, "of inscriptions." Since inscriptions were laboriously chiselled to stone, a "lapidary" writing style is crisp, accurate, formal, and condensed.

Another meaning is a treatise
Treatise
A treatise is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay, and more concerned with investigating or exposing the principles of the subject.-Noteworthy treatises:...

 on the subject of precious stones, one example being the so-called Old English Lapidary, a tenth or eleventh-century translation into Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 of earlier Latin glosses on stones mentioned in The Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

.

See also

  • Naturalis Historia
    Naturalis Historia
    The Natural History is an encyclopedia published circa AD 77–79 by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny...

  • Pliny the Elder
    Pliny the Elder
    Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

  • Rockhound, collector of rocks and minerals as specimens.