The tradition of working with precious and semiprecious stones in Georgia originates from the ancient times. It reached its utmost development in 1st centuryAD Mtskheta - the capital of eastern Georgian Kingdom Iberia, where the art of engraved gems became very popular. This is demonstrtated through the rich finds of Mtskheta (Armaziskhevi, Bagineti, Samtavro), Bori, Kldeeti and other 1st to 3rd archeological sites, where the abundance of engraved portraits carved in intaglio or cameo technique are found. Impressive number of gemstones speaks to the fact that these were the local production made in the workshops nearby Mtskheta. Alongside the indisputable influence of antique gems, close ties with gemstones from Eastern Parthia and Asia Minor can be traced. Several examples of Gems from Egypt are also found here.
Antique gemstone style is still prevalent during the early middle ages, which was replaced by the influence of Sassanid Persian glyptic slightly later. Amongst the medieval gemstones, the gem of Anton Catholocos carved on emerald is worth of special mentioning. The late medieval gemstones often feature inscriptions or trophies.
Apart from gemstones, the stone carving techniques were widespread in medieval art. Church facades, chancel screens or free standing stelae were mostly adorned with stone carved ornaments and figural images.
If the early medieval period was still under the ellinstic influence, stone reliefs of so called transitional period (8th-9th centuries) are marked by the flatness, disproportion and highly stylized rendering of the subject. However, the 10-11th century stone carving features elaborate, delicate forms and proportions, and variety of ornamental motives. The particular tendency is continued in 12-13th centuries as well. The stone reliefs of the following period are distinguished with more primitive folksy style.
The crafts of stone carving has been widely used to decorate gravestones, which became very popular in 19th century, when stone carved gravestone portraitures became common in Georgia.
Nowadays stone carving is applied to decorate ecclesiastic architecture and religious objects, whereas the art of gemstone engraving is used to produce both religious items and jewelry.