Learn about Soapstone

Soapstone is a soft rock, that has been carved by the Chinese for centuries, and is still being carved today. The name derives from the soap-like feel that some of the softer grades of soapstone have. The softness of the rock is due to talc in its composition, and the amount of talc can vary from 80% (very soft) to about 30%. On the Mohs scale of hardness, soapstone has a hardness of 1 to 5, whereas jade has a hardness of 6 to 6.5. It is often possible to scratch a piece of soapstone with a fingernail or knife blade. Because of continuing production over several centuries, it can be difficult to date soapstone carvings, and there are many that were made for the tourist market. Soapstone carvings are generally not expensive and the quality of the carving and the size and colouring of the soapstone contribute to the determination of value. Colours of soapstone can vary and include off-white, red, green and brown.
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A soapstone figure of Guanyin, seated in the Royal Ease Posture, height 15 cm

Large Chinese carved soapstone Kwan Yin, depicted wearing robes, serene expression, with one hand clasping ruyi, seated on back of Buddhist lion on cloud scroll base, on wooden stand, height 33 cm

Chinese well carved soapstone figure group, depicting Lohan recling with kylin, the stone in tones of deep red and green, on carved stone stand, length 9.5 cm (total)

A rare inro collectors' lacquer cabinet, 19th century, of rectangular form, the drop front revealing five drawers of varying size, mounted with silver, the broad tsugaru-nuri ground decorated on all sides with four inro, together with netsuke and ojime

Chinese carved soapstone wise gentleman figure, with mark to base, height 21 cm

Chinese soapstone deity seated on a foo dog figure, height 23 cm

Chinese soapstone standing wise gentleman figure, height 25.5 cm

Chinese soapstone censer. Domed cover with dog of Fo finial. Twin dragon mask ring handles. Raised on a circular foot on a wooden stand. Height 23 cm, (including stand)

A Chinese soapstone scholar's brush rest, using the natural shape, inscribed with a poem and artist name, the poem describing the golden jade and appreciating the quality from Jing Shan mountain, on the underside, Jin Yu Qi Xiang, the jade with gold an

Finely carved Oriental soapstone figure of a 'Scholar', signed to base (scroll restoration)

Oriental soapstone figure of man carrying baskets, 14 cm high approx

Late Qing Chinese soapstone figural group, on carved timber stand, height 21 cm approx

An old Chinese soapstone figure, Hotei, seated on a carved rosewood stand, chip under base. 11 cm x 7 cm x 9 cm

Two Chinese carved soapstone figures of Guanyin, holding a ruyi the other a vase, 19th/20th century, on a contrasting dark soapstone, one is seated on lotus throne the other standing, each with hair piled high under a veil. Height 25 cm. Height 32 cm

Large carved soapstone seal mythical dragon column plinth base with stand 20 cm height

Oriental soapstone figural mounted inkwell, 25 cm high, 31 cm wide, 11 cm D

i) a Chinese jadeite birds figure group, mid 20th century, with wooden stand. Height 14 cm, ii) a Chinese carved soapstone mantle piece early 20th Cenuty, the upper dection carved with encrusted flowers with onlooking bird lower. Height 33.5 cm

A Chinese soapstone oval trough, carved with the grape & Squirrel, design on the front, the back plain, 20th century, on four low legs, Length 20 cm, H 9.5 cm

Two porcelain ducks with Nao chicken and chicks two small soapstone chickens and a glass bied 19.5 cm ht tallest

Chinese Shoushan (soapstone) carved temple measures 10 cm x 18 cm

A Chinese soapstone Buddha figure. In mottled grey cream flecked with iron red colours and touches of amber, a semi reclining figure draped in flowing robes, lightly engraved with floral patterns; upon a fabric covered display stand. Height 7 cm. Width 9 c

A Chinese carved soapstone mantle piece, early 20th century, the upper section carved with encrusted flowers, with onlooking bird lower. Height 33.5 cm

A Chinese carved soapstone Recumbent deer, mid 20th century, with carved ebonised wood base. Height 13 cm. Length 17 cm

A Chinese soapstone Guanyin, Republic era, mid 20th century, the amber toned figure of a serene Guanyin with a diadem, and ornately relief carved wave and flower scrolled robes, with a jewelled bodice and raised upon a double lotus base, the standing figur

A Chinese soapstone carved mountain, people's Republic era, second half 20th century, Utilising the natural contours of the stone, the rich amber toned stone delicately relief carved with a narrative comprising two seated figures in a traditional lands

Two Chinese carved soapstone ornaments 16.5 cm high (tallest) approx.

A pair of Chinese soapstone seals, Qing Dynasty, late 19th to 20th century, in mellow amber tones, the small plinth style seals surmounted by crouching and snarling lion dog figures, one face of each with script and having seal marks underside with remnant

A Chinese soapstone figure of a monk, finely carved with floring robes, depicted holding an interesting staff featuring a skeleton, height 25 cm

A Chinese soapstone deity figure, in rich semi translucent amber tones, depicting a deity figure with a tall head dress and flowing beard and seated upon a throne like chair, holding a rugged timber staff with a double gourd in his right hand, upon a fitte

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