Primitive cultures used soapstone to make bowls, cooking instruments, smoking pipes and decorative ornaments as far back as the Late Archaic Period. Some soapstone cooking bowls and effigy carvings date back to as early as 8,000 years ago. Scandinavian peoples used soapstone molds to cast metals at the dawn of the Bronze Age.
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed primarily of talc, although it may contain other minerals such as chlorite, amphiboles and carbonates. Soapstone is a versatile material that has many uses because it is very soft, easy to work and resistant to heat. Historical uses for soapstone include the crafting of sculptures, jewelry and other ornaments. Other uses for soapstone throughout the years include the creation of counter top surfaces, gravestones and fireplace liners.
Today, fabricators and welders use soapstone as a marker because of its heat-resistant properties. Carpenters, seamstresses and other craftsmen also use soapstone as a marking tool. Soapstone is still used to create molds for casting metals such as silver or pewter. Soapstone is also the primary material used to carve Chinese Seals.
Soapstone was widely traded by many ancient cultures, and an a trading city in southeast Iran called Tepe Yahya served as a major center for the production and distribution of soapstone until 3,000 BC.