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Alabastro di Volterra
The art of carving alabaster began during the Etruscan Era. The extraordinary skill and creativity of this mysterious civilisation has been handed down through the centuries...
The use and care of Alabaster
We realize complete maintenance and restoration of antique alabaster objects. Alabaster artefacts require a little attention and care in their placement and cleaning...
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Alabaster Features


The origin of the name alabaster is uncertain. In Greek and Latin, alabaster is a name given to a vase, probably referring to vases originally made in alabaster. The origin is, however, undoubtedly found in Egypt where the earliest vases in alabaster were first created. It seems that there once existed a city named Alabastron which was famous for the manufactures of small vases and amphorae used as perfume holders. If it is true then the name probably derives from Alabastron giving the name to both the recipient and the stone. There are two distinct types of alabaster. One is hydrate calcium sulphate (CaSO4 •2H2O) and the other calcium carbonate (Ca CO3). This is formed in various shapes, depending on the phase of crystallization, and can be calcite or aragonite. The alabaster from Volterra, a chalky alabaster, belongs to the first category where as the second category is a calcareous alabaster often known as Oriental alabaster


In Italy this type of alabaster is predominantly found in Volterra surrounding territory. The alabaster from Volterra is considered to be the highest quality alabaster in Europe especially for its distinctive features. A compact, translucent, veined and velvety alabaster.
The alabaster was formed in Miocene (the Miocene period dates back to 26-7 million years, the same period in which the Italian peninsula and Apennines were formed).
The varieties of alabaster are practically numberless, for its look always changes whenever the ground composition varies. The less veined ones are white, transparent like the Translucent alabaster or opaque. In the types of various colours, heterogeneous matters – especially clay – and metal oxides are united with calcium sulphate. The dominant colour is the grey, with clay inclusions. The yellow, the reddish and other colours, due to metal oxides and hydroxides – iron above all – follow.
Many classifications (up to 52) of chalky alabaster were made:

alabastro gessoso
alabastro bianco venato
various type of alabaster
Alabaster Bardiglio Alabastro Bianco Venato
alabastro agata
alabastro traslucido
Alabastro Agata Alabastro Traslucido

Not very translucent stones, their colourings go from the light grey to the black. Their veins are due to the clay or to iron oxides. Bardiglio is uneasily describable because it appears with very different intensities, veining and colourings; it may be marbled, that is why sometimes it is also called Bianco venato o “pietra a marmo” (stone similar to marble) and the name of Bardiglio remains only for the typologies in which the variegation and colouring intensity is bigger. The block weight varies from 15 to 250/300 kg.

is a much veined alabaster; it is very dark and it may be either brown or black or reddish. Its weight ranges 20/30 – 400/500 kg.

is a grey stone, its colour is similar to the clay and its mixture and colouring are more or less variegated and decidedly opaque. The intensively coloured Cenerino - that is a rare stone – looks like a light slate. It is found in plates that weigh 150 kg. at most.

Pietre gialle
The colourings of this alabaster have many tonalities of yellow and are practically not to be found.

Its tonality varies from light amber colour to brown and may be more or less transparent. It is very highly valued. Block weight ranges from 20 to 300 kg.

Calcarifero - Fossilifero
Very rare and very highly valued. It is rich yellow tinged with brown beautifully veined in black-grey and rust. Block weight ranges from 40 to 600 kg.


This type of alabaster is formed by deposits of calcareous water and has a translucent, crystalline, often granular structure.
Calcareous alabaster is made up of calcite (trygonal crystallization) or aragonite (rhombic crystallization). The hardness of this stone is 3 – 4 on the Mohs scale.
In Volterra there is a vein of calcareous alabaster near Iano so that there are also some firms that work this stone. This type of alabaster was mostly used in antiquity. The Egyptians not only produced perfume holders but also columns and friezes and decorated the palaces and temples in this stone. In Greece it was used for sculpture work.
Calcareous or Oriental alabaster was imported to Rome from Middle East at the same time that the chalky alabaster was being carved in Volterra by the Etruscans, and was substantially used for architectural decoration including column and animal sculptures.

Piazza Martiri della Liberta 5/9 56048 Volterra (Pi) - Italy
Tel. +39 0588 86078 - Fax +39 0588 86521 - e-mail: info@alialabastro.it