Materials & Techniques

Steatite

Steatite refers to a very soft rock composed primarily of hydrated magnesium silicate. It is usually white, grayish green, brown, or in rare cases, red or black in color. Steatite is easily cut and has been used for carving objects such as bowls, boxes, figurines, beads, seals, amulets, and scarabs since ancient times. In modern construction, it is used for laboratory sinks, bench tops, and electrical panels. Soapstone, another name for steatite, is so soft it can be scratched with a fingernail, but baking results in dehydration and hardening of the stone. Some ancient soapstone carvings were glazed and then fired, which produced enstatite, a mineral hard enough to scratch glass.

Adapted from

Getty Vocabulary, AAT (steatite: AAT: 300011665)