This is a sulphate of lime, or compact gypsum, which occurs in various places; in England the finest is found near Derby, where the pure white is employed for the purposes of sculpture, but the finest white alabaster is from Italy: the variegated kinds are turned into vases, pillars, and other ornamental works. Before the Reformation the alabasters were used for statuary, and many curious monuments in this material may be seen in the churches of the midland counties of England.*.

There are but few kinds of tools employed in turning alabaster, namely, points for roughing out, flat chisels for smoothing, and one or two common firmer chisels, ground convex and concave for curved lines. The point tools used in Derbyshire are square, and described under marble; the Italians prefer a triangular point, as an old triangular file driven into a handle and ground off obtusely at the end. The carved parts are done by hand with small gouges, chisels, and scorpers of various forms and sizes, drills, files, and saws, are also employed; and the surface, unless polished, is finished with fish-skin and Dutch rush.

The fibrous gypsum, called from its brilliant appearance satin-stone, is much, softer; it is turned into necklaces and small ornaments, by a sharp flat chisel held obliquely, a square point would split off the fibres. All the above kinds of alabaster or gypsum produce, when calcined, the well-known plaster of Paris, a substance used for cementing together such of the vases as are made of detached parts; plaster of Paris also renders other and far more important services in variery of the useful and ornamental arts, Oriental alabaster is a very different substance from the above; it is a stalagmitic carbonate of lime, compact, or fibrous; generally white, but of all colours from white to brown, and sometimes veined with coloured zones; it is of the same hardness as marble, is used for similar purposes, and wrought by the same means.*

* The Italian alabaster, when first raised, is semi-transparent like spermaceti: it is wrought in this state; the works are generally rendered of a more opaque white by placing them in a vessel upon little fragments of the stone, so that they may be entirely surrounded by the cold water, which is then poured in and very slowly raised to nearly the boiling temperature: this should occupy two hours. The vessel is then allowed to cool to 70° or 80° Fahr., the object is taken out, closely wrapped in cloth, and allowed to remain until dry. The alabaster at first appears little altered, but it gradually assumes the opaque white; for the first six months it is considered to remain softer than at first, but to become ultimately somewhat harder from the treatment.

Alabaster readily absorbs grease and dirt of any kind, but it is cleaned by the Italians very dexterously; some use weak alkaline and acid solutions. Soap and water are not to be recommended, as the unpolished parts absorb the nil of the soap.