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The Types of Stone used in Sculptures

Transformation Process

Shona Artists use the locally found stone in Zimbabwe with the most common being Serpentine. Other stones include Opalstone, Verdite, Red Sandstone and Soapstone etc.. More than 250 specific combinations of serpentine have been identified in Zimbabwe. Depending on the color, striations and contours of the stone, the artist during sculpting develops a relationship with the stone and depending on the form, carves a sculpture without sketches or drawings. Typically, the stone dictates to the artist the subject that will emerge from within its core.

The tools used are simply a hammer, chisel, file, water and sandpaper. Once the sculpture has been carved it is placed in a fire where the stone is heated. The final finishing stage is to apply a clear wax polish, which melts and absorbs into the stone, bringing out the stone's rich deep luster and color.

At BATANI we have developed special polishing and finishing techniques using high quality polishes and sealers; this produces a long lasting finish that requires minimal maintenance.

Africastone -  the marble of Africa MOHs  4-6

A beautiful and mysterious stone of rare quality, with its variety of shades ranging from pearly grey, to dark black and even some rare shades of red.

Africastone is a unique deposit of metamorphosed clay, classified as a type of pyrophyillite. When the world was new and the ever-changing surface was subject to intense heat and raging storms, the lava in the dominion system attracted this sedimentary deposit.

The only know deposits on our earth are in the Transvaal, the area where the richest gold mines in the world are located.

The master sculptors of this mysterious continent include Casper Darare and Fanuel Mutemasango, who were the first men ever to lay their talents on this rare stone.

After Casper and Fanuel came Amos, an expert in human sculpture, and Shadu, whose deaf and dumb disability has created a supreme sculpting talent. With Africastone, they now have a medium in which to express their artistic talents.

Jade Stone MOHs  5-6

Colour: Shades of emerald green as well as white, grey, yellow, orange and violet.

The term "jade" refers to two different, yet similar in physical properties, semi-precious metamorphic mineral gemstones, Jadeite and Nephrite. Jadeite is almost never found in individual crystals and is composed of microscopic interlocking crystals that produce a very tough material.

Nephrite is actually not a mineral, but a variety of the mineral actinolite. The nephrite variety is composed of fibrous crystals inter-twinned in a tough compact mass. Nephrite is usually only green and creamy white, while jadeite can have the full range of jade's colours.

Jade has resistance to breakage and chipping as jade and due to its toughness it was made a superior weapon and tool for early man. It has popularly become a symbolic stone used in ornaments and religious artefacts.

Valued for its beauty, Jade is highly sought after by artwork collectors. Jade has a warm, approachable and desirable appearance, admirable for both it's simplicities and complexities.

Butterjade MOHs 6-7

Butter Jade has a creamy yellow colour with dark striations throughout and is sometimes also known as Butterstone. Although it is called 'Jade', it is not however a true Jade. The striations found in the attractive yellow-green sedimentary rock are actually layers containing fossilized algae. The stone is typically around 50 million years old and between 6 and 7 on Moh's hardness scale. Butter Jade is a distinctively coloured stone. There are a few deposits throughout Zimbabwe, but the main area of mining is in the southeast corner of the country. The stone is extremely hard with many natural flaws throughout, which makes finding a large raw stone in one piece, very difficult.

Jasper MOHS 6-7

Jasper is a dark green, semi-translucent to opaque form of semiprecious chalcedony. It derives its name from the Greek iaspis. It owes its colour to admixed hematite, but when it occurs with clay admixed, the colour is a yellowish white or grey, or with goethite, a brown or yellow.

Jasper is opaque, fine-grained or dense variety of the silica mineral chart.

Jasper, long used for jewellery and ornamentation, has a dull lustre but takes a fine polish. Its hardness and other physical properties are those of quartz.

It is used in many forms of jewellery and lapidary arts. Jasper was known as the great "rain-bringer" in the fourth century.

Cobalt Stone MOHs 5-6

A beautiful stone often purple in coloration with a variation of yellow and white markings and strips throughout. Can often have brown/orange markings. Cobalt is a brittle, relatively rare hard metal, closely resembling iron and nickel in appearance. It has a hardness of between 5 and 6 on Moh's scale.
The name of this stone can be misleading as cobalt is regarded as blue and even though it does have some blue throughout, the main base colour is a brownish red. The depth of the colour can vary between raw sites as it depends on the mineral deposits of a particular area.
There are versions that can be softer than most, but usually; this is not a popular stone to carve due to the hardness.

Opal Stone MOHs 5-6

“A beautiful light greenish serpentine”.

Opal stone is a very hard stone finely textured with an almost translucent surface sometimes specked with red, orange and bluish dots and patches. Opal stone is famous for it’s milky light coloured greens and smooth texture. It is also unique in that it has fewer colour variations than Serpentine. This stone is one of the favourites of sculptors, as it’s not as hard as spring stone and other serpentines, but still polishes to a high finish. Opal stone also has, at times, a brown colour throughout the predominate green. The appearance can be smooth or mottled. As with most of the stones mined for the purpose of sculpting, opal is mined without the use of automotive tools.

Lemon Opal MOHs 5-6

Lemon Opal stone is easily identified by contrasting yellow striations within the stone.

Usually a much deeper colouration all over the stone, more colourful and a harder stone to sculpt than the usual Opal Stone, mostly due to the particles of quartz found within the stone.

On the Mohs hardness scale, Opal stone rates between 5.0-5.5.

Serpentine MOHs 1.2 - 6.5

Found in many deposits throughout Zimbabwe its colours vary from black to brown to green, orange and variegated. Hardness level varies from very soft to vary hard. Measured on a Moh's scale where a diamond is ten, serpentine goes from 1.2 up to 6.54. The majority of the sculptors today, however do not carve from soft serpentine, but rather select deposits of rock that are hard and therefore more durable. Black Iron Serpentine derives its name from the deposits of iron found in it and is one of the hardest and darkest stones found in Zimbabwe. It has the most amazing black lustress finish that resembles the black opal and is highly sought after because of it’s fine finish, durability and hardness.

Black Serpentine MOHs 4-6

Black serpentine belongs to the generic serpentine group, which includes most of the stones of choice for sculpting The choice of style is of course, the artists decision, but most feel all styles of sculpture are complemented by the basic back. Black serpentine is often mistaken for springstone but even though the two are dark in colour, springstone has different features.

Serpentine (fruit) MOHs 4-5

Fruit Serpentine is usually a really colourful pretty stone, with deep veins of varied strata. Serpentine is the next hardest stone with a rating of 4.0-5.0 on Mohs hardness scale. Because of its beauty it is one of the most sought after because of it’s fine finish, durability and hardness. Fruit serpentine, as with all the other stones of choice except verdite, is mined by hand. Once the vein of fruit serpentine is found, the miners dig out the stones by hand. Very large rocks are rolled to a make shift ramp and pushed onto the back of trucks brought in by the sculptors. This stone has many featured colours, hence its name, and is usually a difficult stone to carve due to the hardness.

Springstone MOHs 7-8

Springstone is unusual and an indication that the minerals are particularly fine grained, non- reflective and shares a density similar to North American marble.

This rock has a clear ring under the sculptor’s chisel and is known by the artists as Springstone. Many adept Shona sculptors choose to work with Springstone for its radiant sheen and often flawless colouring.

VERDITE - The green stone of Africa MOHs 7-8.5

A semi-precious stone over 3500 million years old and a challenging medium for sculptor and master craftsmen. Verdite, also known as "Africa's Green Gold", is highly sought after by artists. Only the most experienced sculptor will dare sculpt from this hard stone. Verdite rates between a 7.0-9.0, depending on the amount of Corundum inclusions, on the universally used Mohs hardness scale. Verdite is found with corundum, and if too much corundum is found in the stone the carver has chosen, it is impossible to carve by hand, as it is far too hard.

Ancient African tribesman crafted Verdite into jewellery and witchdoctors made a preparation from the powdered stone, which they believed increased fertility.

Rare and beautiful, Verdite occurs in a variety of changing patterns and shades ranging from golden browns to rich emerald greens and blues.

In the knowledge that Verdite is found only in Southern Africa and noting in particular that Zimbabwe Verdite is of a uniquely high quality, Verdite is sought after by international art collectors and investors who have been quick to recognise it’s rarity and intrinsic value.

Verdite – a stone of beauty and a genuine investment. Unfortunately, verdite is fast becoming rare and is difficult to find. Carvings from this stone will become increasingly more valuable.