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Photo on 2011-12-06 at 11.49 #2

I Love Soapstone

Hello Beautiful people,
Its been a while since I have put pen to paper , and I must say that I have really missed writing and everything else connected with my blog.
As you all know ,I love writing about hand made things and especially hand made articles that are made in India.You must have also noticed on my website, that there are a few Items made from soapstone and so this article is dedicated to the amazing soapstone.
I guess I have a streak of adventure in me and I have always loved travelling, which lucky for me I have been able to do a lot of. It all started with my dad, who was an officer in the Indian army and he had postings for approximately two years each in different cities and states in India.Globe
So, here I am, sitting comfortably, in my room with my coffee by my side, while it rains cats and dogs outside,thinking about how I should start writing the article. I have so many Ideas buzzing around in my head.So I decided to start with India, which is in itself a sub continent and  huge, so what better way to jump start your travel adventures, than, in your own country, which, by the way is an amazing land.
When we were younger, my dad used to tell us tales of his experiences and travels as it was during the second world war. He had postings in the UK, Eygypt , Nigeria and a few other countries. It was all so very facinating and different, that I decided from the tender age of three, that I would not be living in any one city or country, but would make my way around the world and experience everything that I heard about from my dad for myself.
Now Im older, and happily, I have managed to do a lot of what I had promised to myself, but in doing so, I also realized that I had a precious gem in my own backyard. My own country, India, was waiting for me to explore her, see her in all her glory and experience all that she is. India…

Elephant Well I guess thats enough talking of other things so let’s get  back to the blog,  as otherwise I will be flying of at a tangent the whole time :).I decided on soapstone as I found it very fascinating, the way such beauty is created with something as mundane as stone. Each time I visited Agra, I saw many shops selling these amazing intricately carved elephants, miniature Taj mahals and Globes and other things made from this amazing product.

I started researching   the topic and managed to get some really good information, from Wickipedia.
Soapstone (also known as steatite, or soaprock) is a type of metamorphic rock, which is largely composed of talc and is rich in magnesium. It is produced by something known as dynamothermal ,which occurs in the areas where there is a lot of movement underground.The dynamothermal changes rocks by heat copy-Logo-Totally-Bananas-Final.jpgand pressure, with influx of fluids, but without melting. It has been used as a medium for carving for thousands of years.
Soapstone is relatively soft because of its high talc content. Softer grades may feel soapy when touched, hence the name. There is no fixed hardness for soapstone because the amount of talc it contains varies widely.If a rock cannot be scratched with a knife blade it is not soapstone.29
Soapstone is used for inlaid designs, sculpture, coasters, and kitchen countertops and sinks. The Inuit often use soapstone for traditional carvings. Some Native American tribes and bands make bowls, cooking slabs, and other objects from soapstone;
14Soapstone is sometimes used for construction of fireplace surrounds, cladding on metal woodstoves, and as the preferred material for woodburning masonry heaters because it can absorb, store and evenly radiate heat due to its high density and magnesite content. It is also used for counter tops and bathroom tiling because of the ease of working the material and its property as the “quiet stone.” A weathered or aged appearance will occur naturally over time as the patina is enhanced.
Tepe Yahya, an ancient trading city in southeastern Iran, was a centre for the production and distribution of soapstone in the 5th–3rd century. It was also used in Minoan Crete.In Rio De Janeiro the outer layers of the Christ `The Redeemer sculpture are made of soapstone.Although Soapstone comes from all over the world, it is primarily derived from Brazil, China, and India.  Some Soapstone comes from Australia, Canada, and Germany as well.  Each area has its own unique beauty and colors. Soapstone, which on the hardness scale is rated at one, compared to a diamond, which is ten, is nonetheless quite hard.  It is also non-porous so it will not stain, like granite or marble.  Water can not penetrate it, nor will it tear apart from freezing.Rio_Brazil_2009_635
Quarried like Granite and Marble, Soapstone is a steatite stone, with its primary components being magnetite, dolomite, chlorite, and talc.  It ranges in age from 300 to 400 million years old.  True Soapstone is inert.  Alkalis and acids, which affect granite, marble, and slate, do not affect Soapstone.
Soapstone has a greasy or waxy feel, hence the name soapstone or soaprock. It possible to find major soapstone deposits in southern and east Africa, North and South America, northern Europe, Asia and India. Soapstone has had many names through history; depending on the region in which it is found, it may be known as steatite, combarbalite, or agalmatolite.  True soapstone is resistant to both heat and acid.Native American populations carved soapstone artifacts long before the arrival of European explorers. Museums worldwide house examples of their sculptures, some completed with no tools other than flint. Zimbabwean soapstone carvings range from small objets d’art to massive life-size sculptures.images_7Unknown_6-3 Palewa and gorara stones are types of Indian soapstone.Soapstone has been used in India for centuries as a medium for carving. Mining to meet world-wide demand for soapstone is threatening the habitat of India’s tigers. In Brazil, especially in Minas Gerais, due to the abundance of soapstone mines in that Brazilian state, local artisans still craft objects from that material, including pots and pans, wine glasses, statues, jewel boxes, coasters, vases. These handicrafts are commonly sold in street markets found in cities across the state. Some of the oldest towns, notably Congonhas, Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, still have some of their streets paved with soapstone from colonial times.

Some Native Americans use soapstone for smoking pipes; numerous examples have been found among artifacts of different cultures and are still in use today. Its lack of heat conduction allows for prolonged smoking without the pipe’s heating up uncomfortably.Soapstone can be used to create molds for casting objects from soft metals, such as pewter or silver. The soft stone is easily carved and is not degraded by heating. The slick surface of soapstone allows the finished object to be easily removed.
Soapstones can also be put in a freezer and later used in place of ice cubes to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting. These are called whiskey stones.
It is a mineral that forms in the earth’s sedimentary layer through metamorphosis. Heat, chemicals, and pressure affect the composition of one or more of its original components and produce a dense, non-porous rock. This natural stone is composed mainly or entirely of talc; however, some deposits also contain mica, quartz, tremolite, or chlorite. A soapstone carving may be a decorative item like an official seal, sculpture, or artwork; imes with mottling. Black soapstone is native to Canada, Malawi, and Zimbabwe; green soapstone is the most common color in India. Alaska has white and black soapstone; China has pink.Unknown-32
Due to its high talc content, soapstone is easier to carve and polish than many other stones like marble and jade. The simplest, small soapstone carving does not require special tools; generally, the stone is soft enough to shape with an ordinary common pocketknife. Creating objects of art or decorative household items from larger soapstone rocks and blocks often requires tools like chisels, files, saws, rasps, and lathes. A soapstone carving can be kiln-fired to increase its durability. Many sculptors finish carvings by sanding and polishing them with wax or oil to increase the sheen.
In China and India, soapstone was used for ornaments and domestic utensils.Indians have used soapstone for ornaments and domestic utilities for the past 7500 years.These days Soapstone is used for decorative purposes rather than functional.Carving
It can be ed cut and finish with common wood and masonry tools.
Soapstone sheds micro organisms.It is typically honed to a 320 grit finish and can retain heat without breaking.Soapstone Facts: It can be chilled and retain the cold.
Soapstone is either massive or flaky depending on the talc and chlorite content.
Natural talc is white, yellow, gray, pale green or pale blue and soft.
Chlorite is a group of rocks forming minerals which are soft and usually green. They can also be white, yellow, red, lavender or black.
In Norway, soapstone was considered a valuable commodity because the quarries were often referred to as silver mines.Soapstone is safe to use in your oven. This is a soapstone fact! Soapstone is among the most indestructible and lasting rocks.The beauty of the Hoysala temples , in India,particularly, their intricate carvings owes a lot to one material – Soapstone. Unlike granite, sandstone and marble used in the construction of most of India’s ancient monuments, soapstone is softer with some peculiar properties that set it apart from the former materials. To give you an idea , the softer version of the soapstone can be carved even with your finger nail.images_22

Technically soapstone contains magnesite, dolomite, chlorite and talc . The content of talc is what gives the soapstone its soft property. Also unlike a lot other stones (marble for example ) , soapstone is inert to chemicals. That is neither its surface color nor the texture changes with exposure of chemicals. Even if it does, the change happens only on the surface layer that can be easily polished off.
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
To determine if the piece that you have in your collection is true Soapstone, and not resin made from a casting mold there are two simple tests that you can conduct.  To determine if your piece is a form of resin or plastic, heat up a standard straight pin, (the pin needs to be red-hot), then push the pin into the bottom of the piece in question.  If the pin melts its way into the material then it is definitely NOT Soapstone.  The other test that you can perform is to scrape some material off from the bottom of the piece.  If it is real Soapstone, these shavings will have no odor and will feel like talcum powder, slippery to the touch.images_20
Caring for your fine, Soapstone sculptures, and/or carvings, should take little more than a careful dusting now and then.
So there you have it.Its pretty easy to maintain and looks gorgeous. Beauty and functionality in one.
On this note, I shall love you and leave you. Be safe in whatever you do…..