Traditionally, Zuni jewelers were known as the masters of lapidary. Now, we see incredibly talented inlay artists across all of the Southwest tribes. Prior to the introduction of silversmithing, Native American artists would inlay stones on top of shells. Santo Domingo artist, Mary Lovato, still creates this traditional style of shell inlay. With the introduction of silversmithing, these long-used stone lapidary skills were easily applied to silver and gold. Currently, there are three different styles of lapidary work that we most commonly see.
Mosaic Inlay is a type of lapidary where each stone is inlaid directly against the next stone. Cobbled Inlay is a type of Mosaic Inlay. The stones are inlaid against one another; however, they have an uneven, raised appearance- like that of a cobble stone street. Channel Inlay is a style where a silver, or gold, spacer separates each inlaid stone. This creates a different look where the metal creates a ‘grid’ around the stones.