Basra: Workers of Rock Crystal

Date: First half of the eleventh century

Al-Biruni (d. 1048) records working practices involved in cutting gems and rock crystal in Basra. Pieces of rock crystal of all sizes were imported from islands, including Zanj, to Basra where they were worked into vessels before being handed to the higher paid artisans. The artisans have great skill and cover up any blemish with their designs or inscriptions. Those with too many blemishes are designated as rīm billūr (“dross of rock crystal”). Lower quality rock crystal came from Kashmir. See also: Gem Cutter; Mother-of-Pearl Carver; Vessel Mender; Glass Worker.

Citation: Al-Biruni, Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad, Kitāb al-jamāhir fī maʿrifat al-jawāhir. In Said, Hakem, trans. Al-Beruni’s Book on Mineralogy: The most comprehensive Book in Knowledge on precious Stones (Islamabad: Pakistan Hijra Council, 140/1989), p. 159.

Also: Milwright, Marcus. Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), p. 69.