Steatite stone eis a mixture of several minerals. It is also called soapstone or saponite. Its etymology comes from the Latin “steato”, meaning “fat”, and “ite”, meaning mineral. Pliny the Elder is said to have named it during the first century AD for its resemblance to animal fat. The first traces of its use date back to the Upper Paleolithic (between 45,000 and 12,000 BC), which is the period when prehistoric art and more elaborate tools were developed. The Venus of Grimaldi, carved in green steatite is an example of its use in art. Its use continued in the Mesolithic and especially in the Neolithic period, marked by the sedentarisation and development of pottery. Archaeologists have indeed found many vases, seals, necklaces, figurines and statues dating from this period.
In Antiquity, steatite stone was used rather outside Europe :
It was from the 1st century A.D. onwards that its use became widespread in Europe, for the creation of hand-carved or turned containers. This production developed on a large scale in two population centers: the Viking population and the Alpine population. Alpine production intensified during the Lower Roman Empire (3rd-6th centuries AD) until it competed with ceramics in the Alps and neighbouring regions. Its use decreased from the Middle Ages onwards. Until the 20th century, it was used only for the production of stoves and pots in the Alpine regions. The Ethnographic Museum of Valmaggia in Cevio, Switzerland, offers copies of these productions. Since the 20th century, it has been used mainly for decorative purposes. It has the advantage of being soft and compact. Other, more unusual uses are made of it.
It is a rock, which means that it is composed of several minerals in varying proportions: mainly talc, but also amphibole, calcite, chlorite, mica, iron oxides, pyroxene, quartz and serpentine. It is an ultrabasic or ultramafic rock: it is magmatic with low silica content and high iron oxide and magnesium oxide content. It is metamorphic, which means that it results from the transformation of sedimentary and magmatic rocks into a solid state under conditions of high pressure and temperature. Its formation requires these particular conditions, which explains its rarity; it constitutes less than 1% of the minerals in the Alpine massif. The transformation takes place in the mantle, which is the intermediate layer between the earth’s crust and the central core. Steatite stones outcrop on the earth’s surface as a result of the movement of tectonic plates, which formed the Alpine Massif. They also appear at the surface as a result of erosion.
Its structure varies: it can be massive or schistose. Schistose steatite stone is highly laminated and breaks up into thinner sheets. Its colour varies from white to greyish green to dark green. It has a slightly greasy, almost oily touch, hence its etymology comparing it to animal fat. It can be easily reduced to powder; it is then called talc. It has very interesting physical characteristics, hence the multiple uses that have been made of it. It is both resistant (hence its use as a refractory material, with a high melting point) and soft. In fact, it has a hardness rating of 1 to 2 on Mohs scale. It is very easy to shape with simple tools. It is therefore very suitable for carving. It has a high calorific capacity; it is capable of storing heat and then releasing it for several hours. This property makes it an ideal material to cover stoves and fireplaces. It has a low thermal and electrical conductivity, which makes it suitable for use as an insulator.
The first steatite stone mines opened in Canada in 1871 in Quebec. Currently, the largest producers are Japan and the United States, but also Brazil, Canada, China, India, Germany, Austria, France, Great Britain, Italy, Madagascar, Norway, Portugal, Russia and Australia. Depending on their origin, the quantities and types of impurities differ, and steatite stones accordingly have different characteristics.
Steatite stone is known to help overcome excessive fears and anxieties. It helps to soften exaggerated defensive attitudes; through this, it improves the sociability and communication of the person who wears it. It has calming, positive, stabilizing and soothing properties for the wearer but also for his entire environment. You can wear it to soothe yourself but also to make your family or professional environment profit from its soothing effect. It facilitates the transformation process by helping to abandon old habits in favour of new, more appropriate ones. It thus allows the persons who use it to regain their true identity, free of old fears. It stimulates the capacity for change by opening them to new possibilities.
Soapstone is known for its softness and the soothing effect it provides; wearing it helps to soften the difficulties of daily life. Its soft but resistant texture symbolically makes it a mineral that allows to harden, to acquire stability and adaptability to face the hazards of life. Wearing jewellery made from this mineral allows you to regain serenity to deal with the unexpected and allows you to distance yourself from invasive fears.
Its soothing effect on the mind helps to combat anger and negative reactions, and strengthens family relationships. It is effective in summoning spiritual forces by bringing joy into a home, and its soul-purifying action encourages passive individuals to adopt a positive attitude towards life. It accompanies creative initiatives. Generally speaking, it allows a deeper manifestation of one’s inner self. It is possible to combine its action with other stones.
It is recommended for the treatment of skin disorders. It relieves particularly irritation plates, itching, and red spots. To benefit from this property, simply apply it to the area of skin to be treated. Products made from steatite stone are effective in treating chronic skin problems or sunburn. In the form of talcum powder, it is effective for treating sweaty hands. It also provides balancing and soothing digestive effect.