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The Best Soapstone and Quartz of China and Japan

Aug 17, 2007
Stones like the soapstone and quartz are rarely known but they have significant importance in countries like China in their religious life besides their other uses in articles and figure. Here you will know more of them in more details.

After jade, the principal stone carved by the Chinese is soap-stone, a very soft material varying in colour from a light brow 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 optimistic owners of specimens sometimes miscall differences jade. 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 teapots.

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.

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

Other stones
Lapidaries in both East and West have used many other decorative stones, both large and small,; the list of them is too long and their descriptions too involved to be included here. However, mention must be made of two of the more important.
Derbyshire Spar, known also as Blue John (surmised to be a corruption of the French 'bleu-jaune' from the prevalent colors of the stone), an unusually vividly marked variety of fluorspar mined in Derbyshire, and made into vases and other ornaments from about 1770. Some of the finer eighteenth-century examples have ormolu mounts, which were made by Matthew Boulton in Birmingham.

A transparent variety of quartz is rock crystal, which was carved with consummate skill in both Classical and Renaissance times. Examples of European work are seldom seen outside the principal museums, and the magnificence of most of the surviving specimens is a clear indication of why they were, and are still, so highly valued. Specimens of Chinese carved rock crystal are sometimes to be seen. They take similar forms to jade, and both vases and figures were made.

Hard stones of many kinds were used for the making of decorative panels, known as Pietre Dure or Florentine Mosaics, for tabletops and other purposes by the Italians. The Grand Duke of Tuscany started a workshop for this purpose at the end of the sixteenth century and, apart from specimens in museums and collections all over the world, there is a museum in Florence devoted to the art (the Museo dell' Opficio delle Pietre Dure). In addition to making panels to form pictures in the manner of marquetry, but using colored marbles and stones instead of wood, other panels were made with the inset stones carved in relief: bunches of highly polished cherries were a popular subject.

The Japanese family of Shibayama introduced the inlaying of colored shell and other material into their ivory carvings, and from this spread the inlaying of hard stones, mother-of-pearl and anything else considered suitable into panels of lacquer. All this inlaid work is known as Shibayama, although it only faintly resembles the original work of the family.

Jade is the subject of Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, by S. C. Nott (1936); in which pieces are described and illustrated in black and white and in colour. Chinese Jade Carving by S. Howard Hansford, 1950, illustrates fewer examples, but the information it contains is valuable.

Both these two types of stones were used for decorative works. They were used both in the East and the West. These stones, especially quartz were highly valued and they still are highly valued for their precisions.
About the Author
Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for http://www.kitchen-plans-n-designs.com/ , http://www.goodcollectables.info/ , http://www.bathroomaccessoriesmadeeasy.info/
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