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Alabaster is a soft, fine-grained mineral stone.  Its softness and mailability means that it can be easily carved into impressive designs and shaped into works of many different sizes and functionalities.

Alabaster is a material that has captured the imagination of different cultures for centuries. The pure whiteness of the stone lends itself perfectly to works of art and architecture, while its translucent nature means it enhances light rather than obstructing it.

In this article, we will explore the history and uses of alabaster from ancient times to the modern day.

Alabaster in Ancient Times

The Ancient Egyptians valued alabaster greatly and often referred to it as Oriental Alabaster. It was typically used for crafting small, ornamental vases for holding fragrance and oil. Due to its rarity and precious nature it was often used to create objects of sacred and religious importance.

In Ancient Greece, alabaster was a prized material in the creation of statues and sculptures.  Left untreated, it is less durable than marble, so was typically used it for interior projects and for crafting decorative figurines.

Alabaster in the European Middle Ages

As natural light can permeate alabaster, it has long been used in the creation of windows and lighting features.

Alabaster was often used in large decorative windows in European churches as an alternative to stained glass.  A notable example is the large alabaster window in Orvieto Cathedral in Italy which is crafted from a rare ochre coloured alabaster and fills the building’s interior with golden light.

Alabaster in Modern Design

Atelier Alain Ellouz’s innovative Stonelight techniques strengthen and protect the alabaster from getting damaged by liquid, pressure and light, so it is the perfect material to create visually impressive and durable architectural projects.

Inspired by its’ history, AAE have crafted several magnificent lighting fixtures and window panels from alabaster. Notable examples include the Luna Chandelier, which consists of backlit alabaster orbs in varying sizes and diameters and the Botero Chandelier, which was inspired by elements in the solar system.

At Atelier Alain Ellouz, we use alabaster to create stunningly unique furniture, bathroom elements and wall panelling. Our designs are rarely limited by structural constraints, and as part of a project in a private residence in Geneva, we created a monumental alabaster wall exceeding 10m in height.

As understood throughout the ages, Alabaster is a truly beautiful and versatile stone.