Featured Museum: A Suburban Chicago Gem

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

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31 thoughts on “Featured Museum: A Suburban Chicago Gem

  1. Mary @ The World Is A Book

    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.

  2. Jeff Titelius

    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!

    1. Cathy Post author

      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.

  3. Annie - FootTracker

    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

  4. Mark Wiens

    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!

  5. Sunish

    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?

    1. Cathy Post author

      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.

  6. Renee King

    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!

    1. Cathy Post author

      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.

  7. Leigh

    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.

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