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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...
Buy Alabaster
  The purchase by us is simple, sure and guaranteed

Working Techniques


For ages alabaster craftsmen are specialised according to the different working techniques and therefore to the final shape of the piece they are going to create. There are some articles calling for the intervention of two or three craftsmen, so that they change workshops before they are put on sale.
The most important working techniques are the following:


Squaring to make round shapes

Squaring alabaster
lavorazione alabastro 1
lavorazione alabastro 2
Cutting Slabs from an Alabaster Natural Piece
Smoothing Disk


Turning: to make round shapes

Turning alabaster
lavorazione alabastro 3
lavorazione alabastro 4
LSmoothing at the Lathe
Turning with Rampino


Chiselling: to add carved details

Chiselling alabaster
lavorazione alabastro 5
laborazione alabastro 6
Chiselling of a Dish
Chiselling of a Cinerary Urn


Carving: to make figures,animals and other

lavorazione alabastro 7
lavorazione alabastro 8
Ancient Sculptors Workshop
Three Figures Carved from One Piece


The final finishing and the polishing of alabaster are an extremely interesting and undervalued process. Only after this intervention alabaster completely shows its esthetical features: the transparency and colour effects, the veins, and offers its velveting to the touch.
The smoothing and polishing was once a long, laborious, intricate operation. The finished object was initially smoothed by rubbing the surface with dried skins (usually that of shark) and continued with thin ferns collected in damp soil. This task was usually appointed to the women who would painstakingly and delicately rub the surface with the wet ferns until it was completely smooth. The object was then washed and ready to be polished.
The polish was specifically made up of spongy ox bones burnt on the fire, ground to a fine powder and mixed with a special soap and was gently applied with a soft cloth. The second phase consisted in applying sulphur powder with a soft cloth. The object already smoothed and shiny was now ready for the final polish. The object was warmed in a specially made kiln heated by hot embers covered with ashes and the final polish – a mixture of vaseline oil, whale’s fat, bee’s wax and colophony was applied several times until the surface was perfectly shiny and finally rubbed with a cotton cloth.
Today the smoothing and polishing has been slightly simplified. The object is smoothed by hand with very fine sandpaper and then passed under a mechanic brush to which a paste made up of shells and shellfish is applied. This is a very delicate procedure for if the alabaster becomes too heated it tends to cook and loose its translucent quality. The polishing consist in shining the alabaster under another soft mechanic brush sprinkled with a very fine slightly abrasive powder similar to chalk dust..

laborazione alabastro 9
laborazione alabastro 10
Polishing at Lathe
Polishing at the Brush


Another peculiarity of alabaster is that it can be dyed. Alabaster is by nature a porous stone and has been “dyed” for centuries. Completely immersed in dye, under a given temperature, this stone will absorb any shade of colouring.

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