Artistic carving of semi-precious stones or gems / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Hardstone carving is a general term in art history and archaeology for the artistic carving of predominantly semi-precious stones (but also of gemstones), such as jade, rock crystal (clear quartz), agate, onyx, jasper, serpentinite, or carnelian, and for an object made in this way. Normally the objects are small, and the category overlaps with both jewellery and sculpture. Hardstone carving is sometimes referred to by the Italian term pietre dure; however, pietra dura (with an "a") is the common term used for stone inlay work, which causes some confusion.
From the Neolithic period until about the 19th century such objects were among the most highly prized in a wide variety of cultures, often attributed special powers or religious significance, but today coverage in non-specialist art history tends to be relegated to a catch-all decorative arts or "minor arts" category. The types of objects carved have included those with ritual or religious purposes, engraved gems as signet rings and other kinds of seal, handles, belt hooks and similar items, vessels and purely decorative objects.