As the name suggests, soapstone is a dark gray or green metamorphic rock composed of 40-50% talc and 40-50% magnetite that has a soapy texture. Soapstone, also called steatite, has been used in America since the early 19th century to make everything from sinks and washtubs to countertops.
Origins and Properties of Soapstone
The best soapstone comes from Brazil, but it is also imported from Finland and India as well. Soapstone is inert, so alkalis and acids won't etch the material, as they will other types of stone surfaces. Soapstone is also non-porous and very dense. Soapstone is popular for its' ability to withstand intense heat and thermal shock, making it an ideal choice for fireplaces and cookware. This somewhat soft, but very strong material is resistant to splitting, stains, and water and it doesn't absorb germs or chemicals, making it a good choice for kitchen countertops.
The Beauty of Soapstone Countertop
Because soapstone is a natural product that's easy to work with, it is also used for making a wide variety of ornaments and elaborate sculptures. Considered the "original stone countertop," soapstone is not only admired for its strength, durability, and versatility, but it is also admired for its beauty. Soapstone countertops can add elegance to just about any kitchen and value to just about any home.
Architectural and Artistic Soapstone
There are many different types of soapstone on the market today, but they are typically divided into two broad categories: architectural soapstone and artistic soapstone. Architectural soapstone is used for a variety of building products including:
- Pizza ovens
It is a common misconception that architectural soapstone, also called architectural-grade soapstone, is too soft for construction projects. The opposite is true. Architectural soapstone is in many cases preferred over granite and marble. Artistic soapstone is in fact too soft for construction. Artistic soapstone is easy to cut and shape, which is why it is preferred for making sculptures, ornaments, and other art pieces.
Fashioning Soapstone's Appearance
To darken its appearance, mineral oil may be used on the surface of soapstone. If you would like to return soapstone back to its original appearance after darkening with mineral oil, it can be restored, even after hundreds of years of use. Whether you're looking for a rustic look, an old-fashioned look or an early American look, soapstone has the ability to blend in with any style or design. If properly maintained, this unique material can last several lifetimes.