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Pietra Dura in Schlössern und Museen

Pietra dura is an Italian phrase that means "hard stone," and usually refers to the technique of creating intricate inlaid pictures from shaped colored stones. The stones used are usually silicates, including agates, alabaster, amethyst, jade, jasper, lapis lazuli, malachite, onyx, and topaz. The craft, developed in antiquity, originally consisted of shaping stones with small saws, wires and other metal instruments and adding them to decorative objects such as vases or small sculptures. The art was revived during the Renaissance by Italian craftsmen and the first hard-stone workshop was established by the Medici family in Florence in 1588. The art was also practiced at the courts of Naples, Madrid, Prague, Paris and elsewhere. From the late 16th century, the colorful stones were arranged on marble as landscapes and flower scenes.

Work begins by careful planning of designs, which is done by the “Ustad” or the master craftsman. After a design has been chosen, the “Ustad” sets the colour scheme and tonality of the design. This is followed by careful selection of raw material (like various semiprecious stones and marble), which is selected by the master. During this process special emphasis is laid on choosing various shades of semiprecious stones to give the right gradation and shading to the flowers and other motifs.

The selected stones are then shaped with the help of especially made emery wheels. Each part of the design is shaped individually, which requires a lot of patience. At times a single magnolia flower may have more than 100 individual pieces and may require about one week to make.

Once all the stones are shaped, work passes to a different group of artisans who specialize in inlaying the stone motifs in marble. Here grooves are cut in the marble with a help of an iron chisel. The grooves are made exactly of the same size so that the stones can fit perfectly in them. The stones are set in the grooves by special glues. This is followed by hand polishing of the marble article, which is done with the help of a traditional polishing powder which is applied on the surface with a soft, moist muslin cloth.
Stones: Achat, Beryll, Chalzedon, Jaspis, Lapislazuli, Blue Onyx, Verde Gutemala, Black Galaxy, Kashmir White, Imperial White, Nero Asulluto.