How does one do intarsia?


Recently bought an intarsia piece…
Got it, and it is all of what was pictured…
How does one do intarsia…I know it’s inlaid…in the jewelry
world… Stones on stone…
But with epoxy…? Super glue…?
I did a Google search, and got a lot of reference to wood…
Can I soak this thing in water…alcohol…?
What are the intarsia folks doing…to create the beautiful stuff
they do…?

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

Dear Gary,

Assembled might be a better word for intarsia than inlaid. We
learned it from the Magistros a few years ago. They used a super
glue. Phil did a couple of excellent videos on how to do intarsia,
but a quick search on amazon revealed nothing. There are still some
copies available to borrow from various Federations in the American
Federation of Lapidary Societies. If you could find the Magistros,
maybe they could still sell you a copy.

Meanwhile, Tom and Kay Benham are actively teaching and writing
about intarsia. I believe they teach both at William Holland in
Georgia and for the Southeast Federation at Wildacres in North
Carolina. They are editors at Lapidary Journal where they have
published some articles.

Good luck.

  What are the intarsia folks create the beautiful
stuff they do...? 

Lapidary Journal has had several articles on how to do intarsia in
the last couple of years.


I’m sure others here can give you a better, more technical
explanation of intarsia than I. It is, in a nutshell, layered/stacked
bits of stone and sometimes metal, glued in place and then shaped
using some sort of flat lap type machine/grinder to get precise,
clean edges. Start with the center and work your way out, finishing
with a bezeled edge or design of choice.

Intarsia is a beautiful way of using small bits and pieces of stones
that might go to waste otherwise.


Can I soak this thing in water...alcohol...?

Sorry, I forgot to address this point. Since it is initially held
together with glue, I would strongly recommend cleaning it as you
would precious pearls. It really depends on whether or not it has
been sealed and with what. Personally, I wouldn’t risk it.



I would recommend you not use super glue as it will break down when
subjected to water. I find good ole two part quick set crystal
clear Epoxy does a great job and lasts for years and years. I have
used it for inlay for many years with no problems. One respondent
mentioned Lapidary Journal articles and I would say that Rock and Gem
also has many articles on the subject. Also, check the Orchid book
list in the archives.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

I have written about this in 1998.

  Pietra dura is a mosaic ornamention in which little pieces of
  gemstones are put side to side to form a mosaic. These stones
  are layed in a flat gem like f.i. onyx. They make holes in the
  onyx with drops of accid (or this is the original manner) You
  are excpected to see flowers, ruins, castels etc. A typical
  Florentine type of ornament. 

  Mille-fiori is the Roman variety in which little collored
  brick-like pieces of glass "tesserae" are cemented side to
  side and so creating a mosaic. 

  Intarsia is sometomes used for Pietra-Dura but is original a
  woodcarvers term and is similair but then in wood. 

  Inlaying is the term used for any metal-in-metal inlay work
  (not niello or enamel). 

  If you have any questions, ask me

Thanks to all the folks that got back to me on the intarsia…

I’ve decided that the pieces I have will be treated very gently, and
carefully cleaned and handled…as one would a pearl…

Great place, this Orchid…
Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

Back in the 70’s in kansas city there was a man named Walt Hienz
(not sure of spelling) I knew him from 9 till about 18, he belonged
to the rock club that my grandparents and I belonged to the blue
ridge gem and mineral society. a good portion of the people in this
club were in thier 50 to 90’s at the time, as most are long gone to
rock hound heaven I suppose. anyway this man walt did the most
beautiful intarsias I had ever seen, his detail was splend. they
were a showcase item every year in the rock show. and one year he
could not take them to the show he was getting on in years, my
grandparents took them to the kansas city show and the mcdonald
douglas show in st louis. my grand parents were alowed to have
copys made of the intarsia’s, and as his appreation for takeing the
intarsias to the shows he gave my grandparents the very first one he
did. there was an artical in the lapidary journal featuring his
intarsias. he died in late 70’s or early 80’s, the smithsonion
wanted his intarsias, but the family did not want to give them up.

fast forward about 25 years and one of the sales girls come to the
jewelers room and says does anyone know what this is or what its
value is?? and low and behold it was a Walt hienz intarsia, I went
out front and it was his daughter we had never met but I told her of
the fond memories I had of her father and my grandparents. it was
great to see one of the intarisas once again

At the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Club we were taught to get the
big outside frame pieces together first and then work inside with the
smaller fiddly stuff.

Rose Alene McArthur