The engraving, cutting, or polishing of stones and gems. See also diamond cutting.
This craft uses minerals extracted from the earth – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance
|Area currently practised
|UK wide with a concentration in Hatton Garden and Birmingham’s jewellery quarter.
|Origin in the UK
A useful history of lapidary can be found on the Gem Society website.
- Diamond cutting – a highly specialised area of gem cutting which involves shaping a diamond from a rough stone into a faceted gem. Cutting diamond requires specialised knowledge, tools, equipment, and techniques because of its difficulty. See also Diamond Cutting
- Facet cutting – cutting small polished facets at predefined angles and positions on the upper and lower surfaces of transparent gem material. Light interacting with these two surfaces will produce brilliance and scintillation within the gem.
- Gem carving – a specialised area with far fewer makers. The techniques in this include engraving (intaglio), relief carving and free form carving.
- Cabochon cutting (cabbing) – a popular form of lapidary with many amateur makers. Stones are usually cut into a round or oval domed shape with a flat base.
- Gem tumbling – a simple and accessible form of lapidary that needs few skills. Rough stones are polished in a tumbler and are widely available as kits for hobbyists.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
High set up costs: the equipment and the raw materials for gem cutting are expensive and specialist. Cabochon cutting and gem tumbling are more accessible.
Training issues: there are a wide range of short courses available and much skills exchange and mentoring happens within lapidary societies and clubs. There are few options for formal training and most will learn on the job.
Skills shortages at the higher levels: Some concern has been raised that there are skills shortages and a lack of new entrants into professional gem cutting and diamond cutting. Initiatives such as the training provided by the British Academy of Jewellers is working to address this.
Society of British Jewellers
Institute of Professional Goldsmiths
Craftspeople currently known
- Lin Cheung – gem carver
- Charlotte De Syllas – artist jeweller and gem carver
- Ben Gaskell – artist and specialist in hardstone and precious stones
- Roy Kemp – lapidarist
- Ian Hammond – seal engraver and intaglio
Businesses employing two or more makers:
- Holts Lapidary – founder of Holts Academy of Jewellery, now the British Academy of Jewellery
Many amateur gem cutters are working at a high level and can be very skilled.
The British Academy of Jewellery (formerly Holts Academy of Jewellery) emerged from the jewellery trade in Hatton Garden and has developed accredited training and apprenticeships for jewellery makers. This was created in response to concerns about skills shortages and a lack of new entrants into the trade.
Gem Society – History of Lapidary