Lapidary, Diamond District, Manhattan

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How can I possibly convince a Diamond District business owner to allow me into his stone cutting workshop to film the almost alchemical art of transforming nature’s mineral creations into high-end jewels? After a week of non-stop phone calling and perseverance, I discover that a little southern charm can occasionally take me a long way. I successfully convince a jeweler to allow me into his small workshop full of Brazilian craftsmen, only to discover that stone cutting is perhaps the noisiest art on the planet. The occupational hazards of playing the electric guitar are nothing compared to this!

Once I have finished shooting, I step into the afternoon sunlight of 47th Street and immediately notice an entirely different array of auditory sensations — equally particular to this New York City neighborhood. As long as no uniformed police officers are in sight, a steady stream of hawkers are beckoning each and every passer-by to buy a bracelet, a ring or simply an undocumented raw stone. Straight from our exotic, diamond mine to your fiance’s finger?  (Lynne Sachs)

Lapidary: The Sphere by Fritz Koenig

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The Sphere by Fritz Koenig The Sphere by Fritz  Koenig

This bullet is an old one.

In 1897, it was fired at the president of Uruguay by a young man from Montevideo, Avelino Arredondo, who had spent long weeks without seeing anyone so that the world might know that he acted alone. Thirty years earlier, Lincoln had been murdered by that same ball, by the criminal or magical hand of an actor transformed by the words of Shakespeare into Marcus Crutus, Caesar’s murderer. In the mid-seventeenth century, vengeance had employed it for the assassination of Sweden’s Gustavus Adolphus, in the midst of the public hecatomb of a battle.

In earlier times, the bullet had been other things, because Pythagorean metempsychosis is not reserved for humankind alone. It was the silken cord given to viziers in the East, the rifles and bayonets that cut down the defenders of the Alamo, the triangular blade that slit a queen’s throat, the wood of the Cross and the dark nails that pierced the flesh of the Redeemer, the poison kept by the Carthaginian chief in an iron ring on his finger, the serene goblet that Socrates drank down one evening.

In the dawn of time it was the stone that Cain hurled at Abel, and in the future it shall be many things that we cannot even imagine today, but that will be able to put an end to men and their wondrous, fragile life.

– In Memoriam, J.F.K. by J.L. Borges

Lapidary: Definition

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Lapidary (n.)

  1. One who cuts, polishes, or engraves gems.
  2. A dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.

[Middle English lapidarie, from Old French lapidaire, from Latin lapidarius, from lapis, lapid-, stone.]

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, copla, coral, horn and bone, glass and other synthetics) into functional and/or decorative, even wearable, items (e.g. cameos, cabochons, and more complex facetted 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.

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* Defintion from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.