stonework, term applied to various types of work—that of the lapidary who shapes, cuts, and polishes gemstones or engraves them for seals and ornaments; of the jeweler or artisan who mounts or encrusts them in gold, silver, or other metal; of the stonemason who executes the plan of architect or engineer for wall, pier, vault, bridge, or dam; of the carver who chisels bas-relief, intaglio, or freestanding figure, using a pointing machine for accuracy; and of the printer at his imposing stone. The term stonework is most frequently used to refer to the craft of masonry, as old as civilization and still widely used. Of Roman masonry buildings, some aqueducts, arches, basilicas, and baths still remain. Masonry is classified according to finish, rubble being of rough-quarried or field stone and ashlar of dressed stone. It may be laid without mortar (and is then called dry, or Cyclopean) or with mortar to bind the stones closely together, the outside finish of such joints being called pointing. Stonemasonry may be of hard materials, such as granite, bluestone, or marble, requiring full finish before laying, or of softer varieties, such as brownstone, laid with rough exterior, the decoration being carved afterward. The pyramids (see pyramid) and the sphinx of Egypt are among the world's greatest masterpieces of stonework.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.