Monday, May 26, 2008

The Surprise of Alabaster - it dissolves in Water!!!

One of the stops we made in Egypt was an Alabaster Shop near the Valley of the Kings. I've had my eye on alabaster for a while now. What turned me on to alabaster was a lamp I saw somewhere. It had the most beautiful veins and markings when it was lit, and I made a mental note I'd get an alabaster lamp one day.

In this alabaster shop in Egypt, I looked for but did not find a lamp. I considered a candle holder, perhaps three of varying sizes. I could imagine how pretty they would look when candles were placed inside and lit. But when I asked how much a candle holder was, the man said, $115. I knew this was negotiable, but I thought this was a high starting price, so I didn't bother and walked out of the shop.

Some people in our group did buy some alabaster pieces, and I just heard from one of the buyers. She had bought a small bowl; she wanted to use this as a flower vase, that is to put water in it and float a flower in the middle. This she did, and to her great disappointment discovered that the alabaster cup had crumbled. My initial reaction was that what she had bought was not real alabaster. After all they made/make vases, cups, other receptacles made of alabaster.

Well,I was flabbergasted to learn from my teacher (google) that alabaster dissolves in water. What a shocker! I never would have thought this. I thought it was something tough, like marble or glass. But here's what google says:

"Yes, alabaster does dissolve in water. How quickly? well, a few drops of water on a waxed alabaster surface probably won't make marks. I filled a bowl with water once and found the surface to be noticeably etched half an hour later. It was as if the water just floated off the very top surface of the stone. It was easy to re-polish the piece. Obviously, if there is a fracture in the piece where water can seep through it will, and things will only get worse. One possible way to work with this is to lacquer the surface. Lacquering would work fine except for those always possible natural fractures which may cause the lacquer to check and then we're back in the same boat."

I never imagined it would be ruined by water!

Still, it might have been nice if the alabaster vendors informed people that water can damage alabaster.

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