The History of Soapstone

sink_countertop1The name Soapstone has been used to describe many different kinds and colors of stone that are primarily made up of Talc. These forms of soapstone are used for carving among other things due to its softness. Scientist often describe the feel of these stones as being “soapy” thus the name Soapstone. However the soapstone that we use is an architectural grade of soapstone, scientifically called Steatite. Steatite, like the other forms of soapstone, is primarily composed of talc but due to other mineral deposits, it is a hard and more dense formation of the stone. The stone, due to its density, is naturally non-porous. For the consumer this means nothing can stain it, not even wine, and nothing can penetrate its surface. Any kinds of non-abrasive cleaners can be used on the stone to clean the surface.

Soapstone has a unique history in the United States. It is considered the “original stone countertop.” It was used in the 19th century for countertops, sinks, hearthstones, bed warmers as well as many other applications. Prior to that even, at approx 2,000 BC soapstone was used in Virginia and Georgia to create cookware. Soapstone is still being quarried in small quantities in Virginia and Vermont.

The stone has an even older history around the world. Brazil has some of the oldest carvings and cookware formations. The beautiful “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro is covered in soapstone. In Finland one of the oldest known sculptures dating back to 7000 BC was of a soapstone elk head carved on a club. Many of India’s architectural buildings were made of soapstone dating back to the 12th century. This is truly a standing example of the durability of soapstone. Today the large majority of our Soapstone is quarried in Brazil. There are other smaller quarries located around the world in areas such as Finland, India and China as well as the United States. Soapstone when it is first extracted from the earth comes in shades of grey. Due to its density it is one of the rare surface materials that never has to be sealed since it is naturally non-porous.

Soapstone has an unusual characteristic in that it will turn darker with age. This “aging” process is caused by the contact of oil to its surface. Natural oils such as the oil that comes from our hands and bodies and cooking oils form a Patina on the stone that turns the stone dark over time. This process is “helped” along by applying mineral oil to the surface of your stone.

Soapstone is still commonly found in chemical laboratories from high schools to large pharmaceutical companies. It is being fabricated into forms used to insulate fireboxes and ovens and is still being made into cookware. Soapstone is now becoming more and more popular for indoor/outdoor gourmet kitchen countertops and islands, flooring tiles, sinks, tubs and many other applications.

We at Creative Soapstone are proud to offer varieties of soapstone that we feel will best meet any customers soapstone tastes and enjoyment. We are excited about creating applications that will last for a lifetime.