A History of Soapstone

Soapstone

3,000 years old…

This geologically stable stone is solid and impervious to humidity and its intrinsic qualities allow it to pass through the centuries and the civilisations. Some objects made of soapstone date back to 3000 years ago in China and still remain in a perfect state of preservation.

The stone was very popular in China but also in Africa and Iran. In Asia, the tradition of the soapstone was used for creating works of art but also for houseware such as plates, vases, teapots or boxes. In China, the use of soapstone became particularly popular during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) replacing the use of jade which is much more expensive.

Ancient Greece and especially Cretan artists used the stone for the fabrication of containers and seals. Numerous creations can be admired in the Heraklion museum in Crete.

Soapstone

Indians, Afghans, Egyptians and even Vikings use the soapstone to make jewels and pendants, and in Africa, soapstone figurines were popular in Zimbabwe between the 11th and 16th centuries. The fact that this stone is extremely easy to work, with very little strength and tools, is why it was used in so many ways by so many nations.

The use of soapstone in Europe began in the 18th century and was first used in arts and crafts, before it became fashionable during in the “Art Deco” period, when the search for new decoration forms meant the use of new materials. The soapstone now represents a good alternative to marble, sandstone or granite. Even today, in Scandinavian countries, some stoves are made of soapstone.

The soapstone, showing 1 on the hardness scale, (10 for diamond) is still quite hard. The soapstone owes its workable softness to its density of 3 g/cm³. The fact that it combines softness and hardness favours its use in industrial and technical fields. It is used in the construction industry, as insulating material for example, or in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic field in the talc fabrication.

The stone itself has numerous origins as the sources of supply are located in every corner of the world. Quarries are found in Brazil, India, and China, but also Australia, Canada and Germany. The stones offer different characteristics according to their origins and are chosen according to very strict criteria in order to offer a high-quality material.

 

 

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