Unexpected transparency

The light filters through the stone, and the cast is spelt

Alabaster is a gypsum mineral that takes on different colors depending on its level of purity. Over a very long time, the purest part of the gypsum concentrates in uniform and transparent blocks that are beautiful and easy to work with. The radiance and beauty of the mineral has intrigued people for millennia. As a matter of fact, the word “alabaster” was originally a Greek word and it indicated the various pots they used to keep gentle ointments and expensive perfumes. Alabaster fields can also be found in Spain, Brazil and Romania, but the one in Volterra is considered to be of the highest quality.



Between 26 and 7 million years ago chalk deposits were formed, material from which the white alabaster blocks come. In the early Miocene period, violent telluric movement sank the Tuscan hills under sea level.
The valleys then created were flooded with sea water and, when it dried out, the calcium sulphate that had melted with water left sediments on the bottom of the basins, creating thick layers of chalk: alabaster is a sulphate of calcium hydrate (CaSO4 – H2O).
Very slowly over time, the purest part of the chalk concentrated in homogenous and transparent spheroids while the clay impurities where expelled to the outside of the block, the dark veins are the traces left by them. Chalky alabaster quarries are also to be found in Spain, Brasil, Romania but those in Volterra are considered to have the best quality.



Scaglione is the most common white alabaster, more or less transparent depending on the areas where it comes from. The blocks range from 30-40 kg to 10 quintals. Even huge arnioni (oval-shaped) of 25 quintals have been found. In this case, as it is impossible to extract the whole block, it is taken out in pieces, even though there is a danger that it might break internally, thus compromising the quality.



Agata is the most precious alabaster, the rarest, hardest and most difficult to work. The yellow colour can vary from a faded yellow to an intense dark yellow. A particular type of Agata, the so called red stone, is no longer extracted. The maximum weight ranges between 3-4 quintals.


Bardiglio is an alabaster with different tones, veins and colours. It usually is grey, beige or orangish and looks like marble: it is called a marble-like stone when it has veins, and Bardiglio where the colours and tones are varied. The weight of the slabs ranges from 15 kg to 25-30 quintals.

Marble-like Stone

The marble-like stone (Pietra a marmo) is an alabaster with a white background with light and delicate greyish, reddish or greenish veins, like Calacata marble. Often the veins become spots.


The Cinerino or Cenerino (ash) is a grey stone, looking like clay, with a mixture of colour more or less varied and opaque. The Cinerino with a homogeneous color and mixture, that is rare, looks like a light-coloured slate. The weight of the blocks range from 20-30 kg to 4-5 quintals.

Yellow Stone

The yellow stone (Pietra Gialla) is a bright alabaster, with a more or less intense colour, sometimes almost white. It is very difficult to find. The weight of the blocks range from 20 kg to 4 quintals.

Consorzio Turistico Volterra Valdicecina Valdera S.c.r.l.
Piazza dei Priori 19/20 - 56048 Volterra (PI) - PIVA 01308340502
Operation/Project allocated within the framework of the POR FESR Tuscany 2014-2020