Intarsia Stone Jewelry & Lapidary Intarsia

One of the techniques I stumbled upon in my research was lapidary intarsia. The technique of intarsia can be done with many mediums such as yarn, wood, and metal, and is similar to inlay, where the pieces fit together like a puzzle. Stone intarsia is the same concept, yet requires different equipment to cut and fit the stones.

(not to mentionStone intarsia was very intriquing to me because of the unlimited possibilities of combining colors and patterns!

It took some research, and again, trial and error, to find the right adhesive and work out my processes for cutting stone so that there are no gaps between the pieces. I’ve made lots of stone intarsia pieces since, and it was definitely worth the time I spent learning the technique.

Making a piece of intarsia stone jewelry is a challenge, and definitely requires patience. Based on the drying time of the adhesive, it can take up to a week just to have the piece ready to start cutting and polishing. As with other techniques I’ve learned, you can’t rush the process, because the piece will literally fall apart in subsequent steps.

The stone intarsia piece below was made in several steps, first cutting out the circular piece of green chalcedony, then cutting out the circular shape in the ocean jasper so that the green chalcedony piece could fit inside. I wanted to include a sterling silver piece between the two, so alot of hand sanding was required (not to mention patience) to make the stone pieces fit together without gaps. And those steps had to be done before any adhesive was even applied!

Lapidary stone intarsia can be done by hand, but is certainly easier with stone cutting equipment. A flat lap is essential to cut the perfectly flat surfaces that allow the stones to fit together without gaps. A lapidary machine is also necessary to streamline the cutting and polishing process. Whichever method you choose, you will ultimately find processes that work best for you.

A teardrop shaped stone intarsia pendant made of ocean jasper and green chalcedony

What is stone or lapidary intarsia?

Stone, or lapidary intarsia is the technique of combining different pieces of stone into patterns, often combining them with metals. Patterns can be simple or complex, and when made into cabochons, can produce esquisite intarsia stone jewelry.

Making Stone Intarsia

Use templates or freehand draw the shapes onto the stones. I like to use contrasting color stones to make the colors pop! When using similar stone pieces to make a frame, number or mark the pieces so that they fit together in the same way when you apply the adhesive.

Marking out the shapes of each stone for a piece of lapidary intarsia
After applying the adhesive, clamp the pieces together while adhesive dries. I’ve created these wooden jigs to hold the stones in place while drying.
Clamping stone pieces with adhesive to create a piece of stone intarsia
Depending on your design, you may need to put pieces together in several steps. For example, with the diamond shaped piece below, two ends were glued and left to dry before cutting of the excess stone, sanding flat, and then gluing the final pieces of the frame. Once they have all dried, they are ready to cut and polish.
Stone intarsia pieces glued together and ready to cut and polish.

So many slabs…so little time!