Stones - Soapstone, Quartz


After jade, the principal stone carved by the Chinese is soap-stone, a very soft material varying in colour from a light brown or pale green to a distinctive rich and deep red. It is easily scratched with a pin and reduces to a white powder, it breaks without much difficulty, and in spite of these obvious differences is sometimes mis-called jade by optimistic owners of specimens. In the eighteenth century it was often carved in the form of figures of the Immortals of the Taoist religion; more recently it has been used for vases with carved and pierced ornament, and for wine- and tea-pots. Old pieces of soapstone will be found to have been neatly and carefully finished, and to have a high polish that is lacking in modern specimens. Many old examples have a subtlety of colour that is worthy of a more durable material.


A pale pink-coloured or a green-coloured variety of quartz was carved by the Chinese into decorative vases and figures. Most examples are clumsy in appearance and not very carefully carved; few are very old.

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