Stones - Other Stones

Other stones

Many other decorative stones, both large and small, have been used by lapidaries in both East and West; the list of them is too long and their descriptions too involved to be included here. However, mention must be made of two of the more important.

Derbyshire Spar, known also as Blue John (surmised to be a corruption of the French 'bleu-jaune' from the prevalent colours of the stone), an unusually vividly marked variety of fluorspar mined in Derbyshire, and made into vases and other ornaments from about 1770. Some of the finer eighteenth-century examples have ormolu mounts which were made by Matthew Boulton in Birmingham.

A transparent variety of quartz is rock-crystal, which was carved with consummate skill in both Classical and Renaissance times. Examples of European work are seldom seen outside the principal museums, and the magnificence of most of the surviving specimens is a clear indication of why they were, and are still, so highly valued. Specimens of Chinese carved rock-crystal are sometimes to be seen. They take similar forms to jade, and both vases and figures were made. Hardstones of many kinds were used for the making of decorative panels, known as Pietre Dure or Florentine Mosaics, for table-tops and other purposes by the Italians.

A workshop for this purpose was started by the Grand Duke of Tuscany at the end of the sixteenth century and, apart from specimens in museums and collections all over the world, there is a museum in Florence devoted to the art (the Museo dell' Opficio delle Pietre Dure). In addition to making panels to form pictures in the manner of marquetry, but using coloured marbles and stones instead of wood, other panels were made with the inset stones carved in relief: bunches of highly polished cherries were a popular subject. The Japanese family of Shibayama introduced the inlaying of coloured shell and other material into their ivory carvings, and from this spread the inlaying of hardstones, mother-of-pearl and anything else considered suitable into panels of lacquer. All this inlaid work is known as Shibayama, although it only faintly resembles the original work of the family.

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