Stone Sculpture - Types of Stone Used in Carving

Types of Stone Used in Carving

Soapstone, with a Mohs hardness of about 2, is an easily worked stone, commonly used by beginning students of stone carving.

Alabaster, African wonderstone, alberene, and softer kinds of serpentine, all about 3 on the Mohs scale, are more durable than soapstone. Alabaster, in particular, has long been cherished for its translucence.

Limestone and sandstone, at about 4 on the Mohs scale, are the only sedimentary stones commonly carved. Limestone comes in a popular oolitic variety, about twice as hard as alabaster, that is excellent for carving. The harder serpentines can also reach 4 on the Mohs scale.

Marble, travertine, and onyx are at about 6 on the Mohs scale. Marble has been the preferred stone for sculptors in the European tradition ever since the time of classical Greece. It is available in a wide variety of colors, from white through pink and red to grey and black.

The hardest stone frequently carved is granite, at about 8 on the Mohs scale. It is the most durable of sculptural stones and, correspondingly, an extremely difficult stone to work.

Basalt columns, being even harder than the granite, are less frequently carved. This stone takes on a beautiful black appearance when polished.

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