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Subject: Soapstone


From: Judy Jacob <Judy_Jacob>
Date: Thursday, April 20, 2000
I am working on a 1850s New York State soapstone (steatite) relief
whose surface has a variety of carved and polished finishes.  It
appears that the stone was polished, waxed, and then selectively
carved, leaving both smooth black surfaces and textured carved
whitish-gray surfaces or lines.  Soapstone is whitish-gray when
carved and polished, and only becomes black when saturated with oil
or wax; this two-tone effect is often exploited and is perhaps most
familiar from Inuit carvings.

I'm curious to know if anyone encountered a similar soapstone piece
in either pristine condition or deteriorated.  Does anyone know of
similar pieces in museums, churches, cemeteries, or public
buildings?  Was this waxing-carving process used for decorative
architectural elements?  Has anyone come across treatment or
housekeeping records (new or old) for the caring of carved
soapstone?  Any information on this subject would be extremely

Judy Jacob
Senior Conservator
National Park Service

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:52
                  Distributed: Friday, April 21, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-52-020
Received on Thursday, 20 April, 2000

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