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As Webster says it, lapidary is an adjective, derived from the Latin lapidarius "pertaining to stone," from lapis,  lapid, "stone."  It's meanings include  “engraved in stone”, “or of pertaining to the art of cutting stones or engraving on them”, or “pertaining to the refined or terse style associated with inscriptions on monumental stone”.  It can also be used as a noun meaning “one who cuts, polishes or engraves precious stones” or “a dealer in precious stones”.

Concerned with stones, lapidary is the craft of working, forming and finishing of the following stones:

  • Amber
  • Shell
  • Jet
  • Pearl
  • Copal
  • Coral
  • Horn
  • Bone
  • Glass
  • As well as precious stones such as diamonds, etc. and other synthetics

It crafts these stones into functional, decorative and wearable items.  Some forms of “cutting in stones” has been referred to as lapidary artwork such as sculpturing, architecture and preparing laboratory “thin sections”, even though lapidary is normally associated with jewelry and household decorative items.  Some of these decorative items are in the form of bookends, clock faces and ornaments.

Three broad categories of lapidary art exist.  They are tumbling (a technique for smoothing and polishing a hard substance), cabochon cutting or cabouchon (a gemstone which has been shaped and polished as opposed to facetted), and faceting which are (flat faces on geometric shapes).  Presently most lapidary work is accomplished using motorized tools and resin.  To be successful in decreasing particle sizes and refine a polished appearance a metal bonding diamond tooling is used especially when engraving diamonds and jewelry. 

Lapidary is used in calligraphy such in the inscription for marble or other stones using chiseling strokes.  For example on Trajan’s Column in the Forum at Rome, the words inscription is painted upon the stone slab at first and the lapidarian uses it as a guide for the designing of the inscription.  After stonecutting, the letters may be heightened by painting or gilding them.  Light and shape with the play of light on the strokes enhances the precision of the technique.

The square Roman capital alphabet reached it’s tone of elegance with the lapidary style.

Following are some famous quotes made concerning the word lapidary:

“Here,  disgusted  by  venality  and  intrigue,  the retired courtier would come to compose lapidary maxims and wise but sympathetic letters to ardent youth." --Michael Foley

"If  I  asked  how  long  it  took to simmer the meat sauce,  Emilia  would  answer with a grumble and her usual lapidary phrase: ‘Quanto basta.’  “As long as it takes”. --Patrizia Chen

"The settings for Jim Crace's fiction are always evoked with superb, lapidary precision. --Caroline   Moore, concerning "The Timid Don Juan".

"Nor  is he dismissive of the benefits of modern technology; but a constant theme, like a mounting basso continuo in his story,  is the destructive modern emergence of "the cult of the  quantitative method  known as scientism, physicalism, and  reductionism," leading to what C. S. Lewis called in a lapidary phrase "the abolition of man."  --M.  D. Aeschliman,

"These  writers  have  long  and  eloquently  regretted  the latter's  lapsed  reputation  and the unavailability (until now)  of his work, pointing to his plain, unobtrusive prose and  to  his bleak take on life (traits that can be traced, in their view, to Hemingway's lapidary sentences and to his Lost Generation pessimism). --Lee  Siegel

"The writer of an epitaph should not be considered as saying nothing but what is strictly true. Allowance must be made for some degree of exaggerated praise. In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath."--Samuel Johnson, c. 1775

Another use of lapidary is the Windows XP programmable language unit for testing framework in the Ruby language.

23 Aug 2004 http://lapidary.sourceforge.net/ .
23 Aug 2004 http://www.fact-index.com/l/la/lapidary.html .
Encyclopedia Britannica

Lap"i*da*ry (?), n. ; pl. Lapidaries (#). [L. lapidarius, fr. lapidarius pertaining to stone: cf. F. lapidaire.]


An artificer who cuts, polishes, and engraves precious stones; hence, a dealer in precious stones.


A virtuoso skilled in gems or precious stones; a connoisseur of lapidary work.

Lapidary's lathe, mill, or wheel, a machine consisting essentially of a revolving lap on a vertical spindle, used by a lapidary for grinding and polishing.


© Webster 1913.

Lap"i*da*ry, a. [L. lapidarius pertaining to stone: cf. F. lapidaire.]


Of or pertaining to the art of cutting stones, or engraving on stones, either gems or monuments; as, lapidary ornamentation.


Of or pertaining to monumental inscriptions; as, lapidary adulation.

Lapidary style, that style which is proper for monumental and other inscriptions; terse; sententious.


© Webster 1913.

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