While traveling to Florence, Italy last October I visited the mosaic studio of the Lastrucci family, where two gentlemen toiled away creating art like I had never experienced before! They welcomed us in and told us of their process and how, sadly, their children today are not interested in continuing their craft. Mosaic dates back to the Greeks and Romans of the 3rd Century BC! The tools in the modern studio were very rudimentary and I loved watching them cut the stone with a wire hand saw.
First they gather semiprecious stones from all over the world.
They create a drawing and then make a pattern (like paint by number). They cut out each shape and glue it to the piece of stone and then cut around the paper to yield the exact shape they need. Some hand filing is involved to get them all to fit precisely.
They carve out depressions in a flat piece of stone and drip hot beeswax in the recessed areas where they will set each mosaic piece.
I was honored to be in the Lastrucci studio in Florence to experience this fine art firsthand.
I will never think of mosaic as only lining the bottom of swimming pools again!