Articles / Pre-Columbian Stones

Making Pre-Columbian Stones Today


Diamond saws, drills and sandpaper have simplified the manufacture of Pre-Columbian stone pieces. Using these babies, the fakers can really knock them out.


Most Pre-Columbian pieces started as favorably shaped stones; conservation of labor was a prime concern, since it actually took so much work to make one.


When you hear someone telling you a piece has "string cut", you can be sure they don't know beans about Pre-Columbian stones; likewise for "drilling". String cutting is really difficult and extremely time consuming as a means of removing or shaping stone. The Pre-Columbians had far more efficient methods. To cut or drill you need a blade or bit harder than the material to be cut or drilled. They didn't have those, as we do today. Their methods of shaping or piercing were different - they abraded. For making a hole, bamboo, a natural abrasive, honeybee wax as a binder and jade dust will abrade a neat, sharp circular hole. Using jade or obsidian blades, a groove can be ground quite efficiently.


But in every instance, look for economy of labor. To abrade a large hole took too much time and energy - the smallest size that worked was best. Long, protruding shapes from the core were almost always avoided, too much stone to remove.


And the quality of the stone - the best side of a jade slab would be worked for the front of the figure, impurities kept in back. The best pieces of jade would be worked by the best artisans; lesser quality - lesser ability. And remember - the more fanciful a stone piece - the more probably it's a fake.