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Alabaster

alabaster

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Alabaster is a fine-grained massive gypsum stone; it has been used over the centuries for carvings, statuary and other ornaments. It is generally snow-white and translucent, but can also be artificially dyed. It can be made opaque and to look like marble by heat treatment. An alabaster with a substantial thickness of 1-2 inches will normally allow light through it.

It is found deposited in different countries such as Belgium, England, India, Cyprus, Turkey, United States of America, Spain and Italy. It is mined in open pits with its veins found at about 12-20 feet below the ground surface. The Alabaster rocks are generally 16-20 inches in height while having a diameter of 2-3 feet. After the rock is quarried, it is transferred to a sawmill, where it would be further sawn into round and flat "pancakes" of different sizes for hand-carving, turning or further detailed sawing.

The stone is very popular for its softness and ease to carve or work. Its use to create lamps that had ornamental carvings and decorative objects going back to the earliest civilizations. In the British Museum, a three foot vase, a relief from the Warka period, dates back to between 3500-3000 B.C. In the Louvre you can see fine alabaster busts from Sumer dating back to 3000 B.C. The ancient Egyptians should not be left out, in the Tomb of Tutankhamum, in 1356 B.C, an ornate alabaster triple oil lamp that looks like a lotus flower was found. In the 6th - 13th centuries, the monasteries in the Mediterranean countries such as, France, Greece, Spain, and Italy were all using flat and thin slabs of alabaster as their windowpanes due to its translucency. It can also be tinted to add colour to it or to accentuate its natural veining.

Alabaster may be coloured by heating it with different pigmentary solutions. With this, an imitation of coral known as alabaster coral can be made.

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