Alabaster is formed in blocks or ovules, which are irregularly
distributed in layers of chalky rock deposits. Each
layer, sandwiched between clay deposits, is made up
of a mass of crystallised gypsum, commonly known as
“Panchino” or “Mamma”, in which the white blocks of
alabaster nestle. Alabaster is mined at a depth of 200/300
metres. Depending on the chemical structure of the terrain
the alabaster blocks vary in colour. They also vary
in weight , size and form and some blocks are more translucent
then others. No one is alike (even if they come from
the same mine). It is difficult to have a clear idea
of what alabaster is for there are so many different
varieties. Alabaster generally weighs 2200 – 3000 Kg.
per cubic metre depending on the water content. The
blocks, which are usually, purchased by alabaster workshops
weigh from 100 to 150 Kg. Alabaster measures 2,5 on
the Mohs scale, so that it is a soft stone (talcum measures
1 while diamonds measure 10).
Alabaster Scaglione Mine
Under the microscope alabaster reveals
elongated prismatic crystals of granular or fibrous
masses. Once the site has been tested for the presence
of alabaster, the depth of the mine is decided upon.
There is also a risk of finding strata of water, which
have to be channelled off. If this is not possible the
mine is abandoned. The shafts and tunnels, dug out at
a depth of 280 metres, are often more than ten kilometres
long. The alabaster ovules nestling in the rocks are
extracted with a pneumatic drill, brought to the surface
and then cleaned from its outer “shell”.