AskDefine | Define lapidary

Dictionary Definition

lapidary adj : of or relating to precious stones or the art of working with them; "the ring is of no lapidary value"- Lord Byron; "lapidary art"


1 an expert on precious stones and the art of cutting and engraving them [syn: lapidarist]
2 a skilled worker who cuts and engraves precious stones [syn: lapidist]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin lapidarius ‘of stones’ (later used as a noun ‘stone-cutter’), from lapis ‘stone’.




  1. A person who cuts, polishes, engraves, or deals in gems.


  1. Pertaining to gems and precious stones, or the art of working them.
  2. Suitable for incriptions; efficient, stately, concise.
    • 2000: The sole truth was that supplied by mathematics or by such lapidary propositions as “What's done cannot be undone,” which was irrefutably correct. — Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (Harper 2004, p. 71)

Extensive Definition

A lapidary (the word means "concerned with stones") is an artisan who practices the craft of working, forming and finishing stone, mineral, gemstones, and other suitably durable materials (amber, shell, jet, pearl, copal, coral, horn and bone, glass and other synthetics) into functional and/or decorative, even wearable, items (e.g. cameos, cabochons, and more complex faceted designs). The adjectival term is also extended to refer to such arts. Diamond cutters are generally not referred to as lapidaries, due to their highly specialized techniques which are required to work diamond successfully. The term Lapidist is used to describe the person who practices the art of lapidary, which may include cutting, carving,faceting or polishing rocks or gemstones.
The arts of a sculptor or stonemason are generally too broad in scale to fall within the definition, though chiseling inscriptions in stone, and preparing laboratory 'thin sections' may be considered lapidary arts. 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 inlaying of marble and gemstones into a marble matrix, known in English as "pietra dura" for the hard stones like onyx, jasper and carnelian that are used, but called in Florence and Naples, where the technique was developed in the 16th century, opere di commessi. The Medici Chapel at San Lorenzo in Florence is completely veneered with inlaid hard stones. A lapidary specialty developed from the late 18th century in Naples and Rome are the "micro-mosaics" assembled out of many minute slivers of stone to create still life, cityscape views and the like.
In China, lapidary work specializing in jade carving has been continuous since the Shang dynasty.


There exist three broad categories of lapidary arts. These are the procedures of tumbling, cabochon cutting, and faceting. The distinction is somewhat loose, and leaves a broad range within the term cabochon. At present, most lapidary work is accomplished 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, glasitite or cerium(IV) oxide. Older techniques, still popular with hobbyists, used bonded grinding wheels of silicon carbide, with only using a diamond tipped saw. Diamond cutting, because of the extreme hardness 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, jewelery, 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 through-out the world and 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 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 meaning

The 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. Only the most accomplished can express themselves verbally in a lapidary style: "Brevity is the soul of wit," as Polonius told Claudius.

See also

lapidary in Danish: Lapidarium
lapidary in German: Lapidarium
lapidary in Italian: Lapidario
lapidary in Hungarian: Lapidárium
lapidary in Dutch: Edelsteenslijperij
lapidary in Polish: Lapidarium
lapidary in Romanian: Lapidarium

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1