This material is so common and yields such beautiful results when worked, that a few hints in regard to working and mending it may not be out of place.
There are two distinct chemical compounds to which the name of alabaster has been applied, the most common being the sulphate of lime, while that known as oriental alabaster is a stalagmitic carbonate of lime, compact or fibrous, generally white, but of all colors from white to brown, and sometimes veined with colored zones; it is of the same hardness as marble, is used for similar purposes, and is wrought by the same means.
Of the common alabaster (sulphate of lime) there are several varieties. The finest white alabaster is obtained from Italy, but very excellent specimens are found near Derby in England. (They must not, however, be confounded with Derbyshire or fluor spar which is a calcic fluoride.) The variegated kinds are turned into pillars, vases and various ornamental forms, the tools used being very simple, namely, points for roughing out, flat chisels for smoothing, and one or two common firmer chisels, ground convex and concave for curved lines. After being brought to the proper shape, the work is polished as follows: Take a piece of very fine, soft sandstone, and apply it with water to the work while in quick motion, moving the stone all over until there is worked up a body of mud. Then take a clean rag and work this sludge well on the alabaster, after which wash the work clean. Apply a rag charged with putty powder and water until there is a gloss upon the work, after which apply another rag charged with a mixture of putty powder, soap and water for a short time, and wipe the alabaster dry. If carefully performed the polish will be very beautiful.
Alabaster readily absorbs grease and dirt, and as it is difficult to clean, great care should be taken to prevent it from coming in contact with anything that will stain it. Dust, etc., may be removed by means of pure water to which a little ammonia has been added. Grease and similar stains may be removed by allowing the alabaster to lie for some time in contact with a paste of powdered chalk moistened with a solution of potash or soda Soap should never be used for cleaning alabaster, as it leaves a greasy stain. Unlike marble, alabaster is not affected by common acids, and therefore they may be used for extracting stains of common ink, etc.