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Rock-Crystal-art - 10/19/00


"Carving Rock Crystal According to Theophilius" by Lord Valdis of Gotland (humor).


NOTE: See also the files: lapidary-msg, A-Lapidary-art, 5x8-Doc-art, AS-cont-docu-msg, 12thC-Hole-art, SCA-dishes-art, gem-sources-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: "Lord Valdis of Gotland" <lvaldis at cvn.net>

Date: 8 Oct 2000 10:36:48 -0000

To: Norsefolk at egroups.com

Subject: Documentation I entered in an A&S competition...fun read


At East Kingdom coronation the other weekend I entered the below

documentation with  a raw piece of quartz.  The quartz was not

polished, nor carved. Below you will read the documentation that

went along with it, I received more comments on this  entry than I do

on some of my Norse reproductions carved in wood and antler.  The

documentation starts out slow with the background, then it picks

up...so don't get bored too quickly.  I hope you enjoy.


Yours In Service,

Lord Valdis of Gotland


Now to our feature presentation...


Theophilus 'On Divers Arts'


Using strictly period techniques directly from Theophilus's book on

divers arts, I will explain process's used.  Theophilus Presbyter has

been described as a Benedictine monk, there are theories that Roger

of Helmarshausen is the same person.  Roger of Helmarshausen was a

renowned metal worker, whose skill is attested to by a bejeweled book

cover in Nuremberg and two portable altars that are preserved in

Paderborn.  The only record of his life was in the papers, that his

monastery conveyed a cross and a reliquary-altar to the Bishop of

Paderborn, in exchange for a church and its tithes on August 15,

1100.  This is further supported by the fact that Roger of

Helmarshausen is very familiar and goes in great detail in his

writings on metal working, whereas he seems to strictly document

other techniques that he is not familiar, with vague detail and

inaccuracies.  We will take one of these techniques and put it to the



My persona being a Viking artisan, worker of wood, bone, ivory and

semi precious stones, I will attempt to follow as best as possible

the details given in the above stated book.

As most A&S competitions cover strictly the arts, I will take you

through the science in the paragraphs below, please do not try this

at home.

Upon the wishes of Roger of Helmarshausen and for familiarity we will

use the name Theophilus in the below text.


Carving Rock Crystal


Rock Crystal was believed to be water hardened into ice, which then

hardened through many years into stone.  We will call this quartz, as

I believe this is what the author was referring too.


Preparing the quartz according to Theophilus:

Theophilus tells us to take a two or three year old goat and bind its

feet together and cut a hole between its breast and stomach, in the

place where the heart is, and put the crystal in there, so that it

lies in its blood until it is hot.  At once take it out and engrave

whatever you want on it, while this heat lasts.  When it begins to

cool and become hard, put it back in the goats blood, take it out

again when it is hot, and engrave it.  Keep on doing so until you

finish the carving. Finally, heat it again, take it out and rub it

with a woolen cloth so that you may render it brilliant with the same



Application by Lord Valdis:

Using cows blood from the local market I soaked the rock crystal (we

shall call it quartz) in the blood for an hour at which time I took

it out to try and carve it.  The quartz was cold to the touch and did

not take the blade or file well.  I did not see any difference in

continuity of the quartz after soaking.

Second attempt with the cows blood found me heating the cows blood to

a simmer and dropping the quartz into the blood.  I waited another

hour with the same results as above, however the stone was warmer to

the touch.  Note - the stench and mess of blood running down both

arms is starting to get to me.


Conclusion - The blood of a goat was significant in softening the




From the local auction I secured an old goat that was inexpensive due

to its age and health. Apologizing to the old goat and trying to

rationalize that it was being done for the sake of historical

accuracy...science. This did not make me feel any better about what

I was about to do.  I cut its belly open from sternum to groin with a

skinning knife.  Not being familiar with the anatomy of a goat I

immediately found myself with a lap full of intestines and other

organs.  Pulling these to the side I reached in to find the heart,

again my unfamiliarity forced me to place my face in close proximity

of the smell and sight of this aged goats insides.  I found what I

believe to be the heart and rested the quartz up against the organ

and quickly went to bath myself.


After an hour I gingerly approached the atrocity that was once a

goat, I reached inside, holding my breath and retrieved the quartz.

I quickly took it to the blade and file, neither of which had any

effect than if it were cold.


Conclusion - The goat was too old or had some sort of blood disorder.



After disposing of the last goat I went to the auction house again

and tried to explain why I needed a goat between the ages of two and

three years.  After being escorted out by security I decided to

approach a local farm with no questions asked and none given.  The

farmer was happy to sell me a healthy looking two-year-old goat.  Not

knowing which sex to get I picked a female for this test since my

aging goat before had been a male.


I was able to get into the chest cavity with the quartz with a little

more ease this time.  I let it sit for three hours until the stench

started to make it an issue for my neighbors.  Taking the quartz out

and trying my file on it I found it as hard as ever, although it was

a beautiful red color. Note:  Be careful at this point because the

stone is very slippery and you are liable to cut yourself.  I

concluded that I must continue with the next step Theophilus

described, so I stuck the quartz gingerly back into the room

temperature flesh.  I should point out that this work is being done

in a little workshop and the stench of flesh made it impossible to

finish other projects. Night came and passed with the morning being

unbearably hot and humid, I started out towards my workshop.  As soon

as I opened my back door I realized that I may not have the resolve

to see this project to the end.  The odor was unbelievable, I quickly

donned a painting mask and quickly entered the workshop and took out

my quartz.  I hurriedly grabbed my files and headed out the door

again.  No luck, still hard and now very sticky.


Conclusion - After reading Theophilus's description again I realized

that perhaps he took the heart out for he says to place the quartz

where the heart is. With revived enthusiasm I head out to search for

another goat.



I purchase a male goat, three years of age from another local

farmer.  I concluded that the male being larger would have a higher

blood volume and hence a higher concentration of whatever it was that

made the quartz soft.


Being an old hand at gutting goats by this time I quickly cut out the

heart and place the quartz in its place.  It took me a better part of

an hour to clean the quartz from my last endeavor, but I was leaving

nothing at risk.  I quickly rolled the goat into a piece of tarp so

as to keep the smell contained.  After an hour I went to check on my

passion only to end up doubled over outside my workshop losing my

dinner to the soil. Now with an empty stomach I approach my work

again and successfully take out my quartz and prepare for a

successful attempt. Placing the tarp back over the carcass I quickly

exit to try my hand at carving my quartz once and for all.  Putting

my blade to the quartz I found it as hard as ever, trying the file I

made a few scratch marks.


At this point a local Sheriff's Deputies car pulls into my driveway.

I was standing there with blood up both arms and across my front, my

knives and files laying around me and with me holding an object that

looks similar to an organ with its bright red color and dripping

blood between my feet. I will not mention the look of desperation I

had on my face at not being able to carve the quartz with the look of

panic coming over it when I recognized the car that pulled in and

what it must look like. To make a long story short, the sheriff's

department kindly removed the carcass's for me and cataloged

everything in my workshop for me, while giving me free room and board

until  I could talk with the local judge who just happened to be at

the Pennsylvania Ren Faire that weekend.  Monday morning finds me

explaining Theophilus before a captive audience with people taking

frantic notes at my every word.  I have never seen such an interest

in medieval history as I experienced in that room that day.  I was

released that afternoon and told to hand over my copy of Theophilus

On Divers Arts to the deputy that followed me home.

All is quiet at my house now, I have just ordered the Theophilus On

Divers Arts from online and am waiting to try and harden steel in the

urine of a small red headed boy, according to Theophilus there is no

better way to harden steel.


Conclusion - I have had plenty of time to think about this now and

with many a discussion with my therapist, that the courts so kindly

provided, we have concluded that perhaps the artisans that told

Theophilus the details of their trade were either protecting their

technique or just pulling a joke on him, not realizing that it would

turn my life upside down some 900 years later.

My personal feelings are that I need a goat that is from Europe and

has eaten the same diet as they did in the 12th century, but I will

refrain from experimenting with that one for a while, at least until

I am no longer under house arrest.


Theophilus On Divers Arts

Dover Publication

ISBN  0-486-23784-2


Note:  No animals were hurt during these tests, the tests were purely

a writ of fiction.  The quotes from Theopilus  is true and the

description that he gives for carving quartz is accurate.  My

personal conclusion was that it was a joke played on Theophilus for a

good laugh and to protect their trade (trade secrets).  Much of what

is written by Theophilus is accurate, some techniques are harmful by

today's standards and should be handled with care.  Please feel free

to stop by my merchant booth to discuss A&S.  I hope you enjoyed the



Yours In Service,

Lord Valdis of Gotland


Feel free to forward this as you like with the proper credits.  If

someone decides to publish it in any format, I request a copy sent to

me snail mail.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org