The art of carving lapis lazuli is driven by the skills of each individual artisan. Lapis lazuli figurines are often carved from the raw stone’s initial form, meaning that the artisan will typically decide on a shape based on what the raw stone looks like. The base of the rock is taken as a main reference point with the rest of the rock completing the figurine’s shape. Thus, lapis lazuli carvings are truly an inspired art form. No two carvings are the same.
Lapis lazuli carvings range from primitive shapes, to standard animal and talisman carvings, to highly artistic and elaborate pieces. The artisan will begin by removing the rough edges left by the cutting disk. After deciding on the ultimate shape of the object, the artisan will begin carving the stone further. This process is done with diamond pointed drills and reels that are hard enough and precise enough to add intricate detailing. The rock must be sanded thoroughly to smooth out the stone and emphasize the design. Finally, the figurine is polished to heighten the color and eliminate any wear and tear from the carving process.
The most common lapis lazuli carvings are moais, penguins, llamas, elephants, rhinoceroses, panthers, tigers, lions, rabbits, bulls, owls, deer, and lizards. These are all typically formed out of one block of solid lapis lazuli. Condors, cockatoos, parrots, sparrows, eagles, ducks, and hens are also popular but typically put together from several differently colored pieces of the gemstone along with other semi-precious stones like marble or malachite. Artisans also make small, personal ornaments like hearts, teardrops, stars, and other talismans that can be used as pendants on necklaces or chain bracelets.
The Moai is one of the most popular carvings from Chilean lapis lazuli. Moai are the monolithic human carvings made of volcanic stone on Easter Island. This figurine has come to represent Chile, making it a popular carving of choice by Chilean artisans. It is also a simple design to make and a popular souvenir for tourists in the area. Despite its basic characteristics, no Moai is identical to another, just like the original carvings on the island.
A lapis lazuli carving can be one of the most special and sentimental ornaments or souvenirs people can get because they know that they are receiving a quality, handcrafted product that was inspired by the artisans themselves based on the exact stone they were given to work with.