Jun 122012
Jadi Pi at Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

Jade Pi at Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

I’ve spent much time over the years visiting a close friend in Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb about 16 miles west of downtown Chicago. But until last month, neither of us had ever been to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, an under-the-radar gem — really.

So What is Lapidary Art?

I had no idea what it was until I found a listing for the museum on the City of Elmhurst’s website. Lapidary is the art of cutting and polishing stone. The museum’s founder, Joseph F. Lizzadro, Sr., started a hobby in lapidary back in the 1930s and through acquisitions grew a world class collection. His museum opened in 1962 for this stated purpose: “To share with others our enjoyment of the eternal beauty in gemstones and our appreciation of the art with which man has complemented the works of nature.”

In the Rough: Angel Wing Calcite

Rough gems, jade carvings, polished stones, stone mosaics, dioramas of animals carved from gem materials — these are some of the diverse rock and mineral exhibits you’ll find on display. Here are a few of my favorites from the collection.

Jade Carvings

Blue Jadeite Pagoda Censer

Blue Jadeite Pagoda Censer

Pure jade is white, but other minerals give it many different colors. This elaborate jadeite carving was made between 1736 and 1795 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and was probably used to burn incense in the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Although the jadeite came from Burma, it was carved in China.

jade candle holders

Jadeite Candle Holders


Ruyi Scepters

Ruyi Scepters

Ruyi are scepters often made of jade, iron, amber, bamboo, wood, and precious metals that were given as gifts to convey wishes for good luck. Ruyi means “as you wish”.

Amber Harvest

Amber Harvest

Amber Harvest

This Italian statue was carved from a single piece of amber, fossilized tree resin, and shows a family rejoicing after a good harvest.

Cut Gemstones

Cut Gemstones at Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

Cut Gemstones

Imperial Screen

Imperial Screen

Imperial Screen

Scenes on this Chinese screen are set is jade, amethyst, tiger-eye, rose quartz, mother-of-pearl, ivory and other gemstones. It was originally given to Emperor Qianlong in 1791, but was brought to San Francisco in 1930 for the World’s Fair and later purchased by Joseph Lizzadro.

The museum isn’t only a treasure chest for rockhounds and amateur geologists, but anyone who appreciates the aesthetics of art created from nature.

If you go: The museum is about a 10 minute walk from the Elmhurst Metra Station. From downtown Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center, it is a 30 minute train ride to Elmhurst. Parking is also available. The museum is open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday through Sunday. Adult admission is $4.00, free on Fridays.

For more information: Lizzadro Musuem of Lapidary Art

Citrine Gemstone

Citrine Gemstone

  30 Responses to “Featured Museum: A Suburban Chicago Gem”

  1. I love stones so would definitely be interested in this museum! Beautiful pieces.

  2. Wow! Those gemstones are really wonderful. I wish I could have a jewellery with these kind of stones.

  3. Seems now they have a museum for almost everything. 😉

  4. What a beautiful find, Cathy! I’d never have guessed such a museum exists.

  5. What a great museum…I love art from natural stone…

  6. What a wonderul find of a museum! I love these kinds of unique museums and who doesn’t love shiny stuff? I absolutely adore that amber Italian statue and just WOW on those gemstones. I feel like I need to bring some sunglasses just to visit.

    • You know, I think the gemstones might have been my favorites — I actually took a lot of photos of them.

  7. Wow!! Never heard of this before. I loved the blue jadeite from China!! Amazing. Actually all of them are stunning works of art!!! Thanks for opening my eyes even wider to this art form!

  8. Another gem of a post Cathy. I neevr knew there was such a thing. But wow, that family harvest celebration looks a little umm. unseemly to my eyes! LOL

    • Thanks, Jools. Um, I see what you’re saying about the family harvest piece, but I do believe that it is actually quite G rated.

  9. So beautiful, I love the jade carvings. Emperor Qianlong is one of my favorite leader in Chinese history (he has many stories written about him) . Although if I have those Jade candle holders I probably would glue it somewhere secure so it won’t be knocked off….x_X

  10. Kali’s younger brother used to really be into crystals, so I think he would get a kick out of this. And those jade carvings! Beautiful art.

  11. I think stones / gems are some of the most beautiful things in nature, and I’m also fascinated the way they are cut for jewelry – a tiny little gemstone can take on so many dimensions when it’s cut. Looks like a very interesting museum!

  12. Wow! May be a stupid question…but I have to ask. Are they all real stones worth millions of dollars worth displayed in Lizzadro Museum? Or are they just replicas?

    • That’s a fair question, Sunish. I don’t know the value of the stones, but to the best of my knowledge, they are all real stones.

  13. This is so beautiful, Catherine….I’ve never understood the fascination with gems like Diamonds. These stones are infinitely more interesting yet only get a fraction of the love. I had no idea that pure jade was white either!

    • Surprising about jade, isn’t it? I’m not the kind of “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” kind of person, but there’s something about these gorgeous gemstones.

  14. Very cool! And a place I have yet to see in Chicago!! Elmhurst is a charming town too.

  15. Elmhurst is a great town!. My friend has lived there for many years — always love visiting there.

  16. What an amazing collection! Great series of shots.

  17. Sign me up for some of those gemstones. I’m always amazed what they can do with a rough piece of rock. There are some works of art in that collection.

  18. […] Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is an under-the-radar gem (really). It’s about 15 miles west of Chicago in the suburb of Elmhurst, easily reached by […]

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