Quick Facts: What are icons from semiprecious stones?

One of the workshops of St. ElisabethConvent that is often overlooked is the one that makes crushed/semiprecious stone icons and landscapes. This is because the technique is quite rare and unique, so unique in fact that many may not have heard of it. In this next post, we will try to explain and give a better idea about this mysterious yet amazing way to make icons as well as landscape images and other pictures. It would also be great to hear your feedback, comments and perhaps requests for more detailed interview with the head of the workshop and additional information regarding the process on how these beautiful icons are made. Here are some quick facts in 3 parts:

                                        Part 1: Video

 Part 2: Quick Technique Facts

This workshop is one of the oldest in St. Elisabeth Convent founded in 1999. Since then, the workshop masterpieces created by such an unusual method have become popular throughout the world.

Works from the stone workshop are long lasting and durable because the materials used do not fade or tarnish.
The first step is creating an outline of the image (usually on a marble base). At this point, the base can undergo gold plating if that is the intention of the artist. Afterwards, the most interesting part begins – the time for multicolored stones to be applied/scattered unto the base.

This process is quite unusual because the artist is not using paint as one would in conventional paintings but instead minerals and semi-precious stones ground by hand are used.

These minerals and stones come from different parts of the world. Bright red cinnabar with metallic chatoyment (shine) comes from China, rich green copper emerald (Dioptase) - from Kazakhstan and orange crocoite from Ural. As you can see, the creation of this layer requires a wide color range.

The image is divided into separate sections, on which glue is applied with a paintbrush. Then with the help of a miniature spoon, the stone mix is poured on the outlined image.

Images that need to appear in the distance consist of the tiniest stone fractions but for clothing, decor and main images, the size of the stone starts with 1mm.

With this technique, every little detail matters. The elevation of the hand, the size of the stone fractions as well as their weight. Even drifts and minor air movements can become a problem. However, it is all worth it: borders and unique natural forms leave a special impression giving the icon a one of a kind shine or a special type of a “glow”.

This particular technique requires very particular set of skills. For this very reason, brothers and sisters working in this workshop do not start with icons but instead begin with landscapes, which allows for an easier acquisition of the new skills.

Only after a certain period of time when the artist has mastered all the particulars of the process and learned, all the mineral qualities he or she will begin the real work – creating semiprecious stone icons. 

                  Part 3: Images of Icons and Landscapes

                                       Icons of Christ

                                                       Icon of Christ, Christ Pentocrator

                                                      Image of Christ Not-Made-By-Hands

                                                                        The Holy Saviour