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How to identify soapstone

Updated February 21, 2017

Soapstone is an attractive type of stone that has long been used for both practical and decorative purposes. If you are thinking about getting into soapstone carving, purchasing a soapstone countertop or verifying the difference between soapstone and jade, you will want to learn about how to identify soapstone.

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  1. Scratch the surface of the stone with your fingernail. Soapstone is very soft; it is assigned a rating of 2 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This means that simply by drawing your fingernail across the surface of the stone you should be able to mark it.

  2. Rub the stone. There should be a waxy, soapy feel to the surface of the stone, whether it is polished or not. This is one of the essential properties of soapstone.

  3. Hold the stone up to the light. When you are looking at the way the light reflects off the stone, you are looking at lustre. The lustre of a piece of soapstone can be described variously as greasy, pearly or silky, depending on the variety of soapstone. Also look to see if light comes through the stone. Soapstone is semi-transparent.

  4. Judge the stone's temperature. Soapstone, like jade, is cool at room temperature.

  5. Ask what it is being called. There are several types of jade that are actually varieties of soapstone. Fukian jade, Honan jade, Manchurian jade and Soochow jade are all types of soapstone.

  6. Tip

    Remember that colour is not a consideration when you are looking at soapstone. Soapstone can be found in a number of different colours, as a result of the minerals that have mixed with it. Green and pink soapstone is very common in China, and balck soapstone can be found in Russia.

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