Stone chess sets can be fragile however they are also absolutely fantastic display items that can add a lot of character and flair to any furniture display. Stone chess sets are a favorite of collectors and chess lovers alike as a great option for a nice, luxurious chess board. Stone chess sets are all a little different because they are hand carved and use natural material. The most popular type of stone chess sets are marble, alabaster, onyx and soapstone.
Marble is often viewed as having a more sophisticated, elegant look than other stone materials. The light penetrates into the stone a little bit before being reflected back in a way that has been compared to human skin. Marble is a very hard stone and is difficult to carve, therefore it can be polished to shine brilliantly and is scratch resistent. Marble chess sets have a huge variety of colors and textures, ranging from traditional whites, blacks, and grays to unique colors such as green and orange.
Alabaster is a fine-grained stone generally white or lightly tinted in color and has a translucent and silky appearance. Alabaster is soft and easy to carve and can be polished to a high, translucent gloss making its surface look deceptively hard and glass-like. This is an attractive property for artists to making chess pieces. Alabaster is very brittle and is easily bruised and can be scratched with a fingernail. Alabaster absorbs moisture and may become damaged in extremely damp conditions, therefore use only dry cleaning methods (see cleaning methods under marble).
Onyx is most often layered in slightly pale translucent shades of brown, yellow, and green. Onyx can be polished like a true marble. Onyx is also noticable lighter then the dense and heavy marble. Onyx can be cleaned in the same way as marble.
Soapstone has a "soapy” feel and hence its name. Soapstone is very soft and is therefore often used for making chess pieces. Soapstone has a pearly surface and the color varies widely from greenish white to blue black. Usually the darker the color, the harder the stone. Soapstone is very dense and non porous. Soapstone is known for its stain resistant characteristics and can be easily cleaned.
Marble stays beautiful when handled with care, and it is best to prevent it from becoming dirty. Coffee, wine and vinegar can permanently stain marble and should be removed immediately. Do not use dusters, particularly coloured ones, as they tend to rub the dust into the surface and may smear greasy dirt. In general the patina build up over time is not removed. Protection with a wax or oil is not adviced, since it is difficult to predict if the minerals will react with the wax or oil over time. These reactions can cause stains or discoloration which cannot be removed easily anymore.
Dry cleaning is prefered. Use a clean soft-bristled brush such as a makeup brush to avoid scratches. Wear cotton gloves when handling alabaster, otherwise finger oils left behind may attract dust. For difficult to remove stains a Q-tip dampened (not saturated) with acetone can be used.
Wet cleaning should always be tested to see if it has no adverse effect. Remove dust before cleaning, because otherwise the dirt will be absorbed. Spray the piece or chess board liberally with water before applying the cleaner with a sprayer. Stone is a very porous material and will absorb the cleaner. By wetting it beforehand, the cleaner will stay on the surface of the stone and minimize penetration of the cleaner into the stone. This action minimizes potential adverse effects by the cleaner, such as salt crystallization in the pores of the stone. It makes it easier to rinse the cleaner from the stone surface.
Clean with mild liquid dishwashing detergent (pH neutral) and warm water. Avoid cleaners that contain lemon, vinegar, or other acids; as well as scouring powders or creams. These often contain abrasives that can dull or etch calcareous stones. Use white spirit only when needed for removing waxes and oily dirt.
Polishing always should be tested to see if it has no adverse effect. Grind some kids chalk into a fine powder. Dampen a clean white cloth and dip it into the chalk powder. Rub it on the marble with smooth, overlapping back and forth strokes. Allow to dry for a moment, then rinse with fresh water on a damp cloth, and dry thoroughly.