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Chinese Seal Stones

For people who would like to carve their own seals, know how to choose a proper seal stone is a necessary skill. In this article, we will go through briefly the four most famous natural stones in China which are used for carving seals. And, in the second part, we will talk about how to choose stones, for example, which size & type is the most suitable size for beginners.

seal stones

Seal Stone Types in China

There are four types of natural stones from China used for making seal. These stones are from four different areas and each is named after the area. These four types of stones are equally valuable. Each type has cheap stones and precious stones. The value of the stone is up to the stone’s quality itself. In the second part of this post you will find some principles for us to decide the value of the stone. Normally, in market, the proper good quality natural stones from these places are starting from 5 USD per piece in China. In international market, the price would be normally around 20% higher.

Shoushan Stone 寿山石

Shou Shan stone is mainly from the triangle zone on the border of north Fu Zhou municipal 福州市, Lian Jiang county 连江县, and Luo Yuan county 罗源县. Most of the stone is excavated from Shoushan river surrounding Shoushan village 寿山村. There is over 1500 years history of using this stone in China. There are over 10 subcategories of  Shoushan Stone.

Shoushan stone can be different colours. For instance, you can find them with colour of white, milky white, grey, red, pink, light blue, etc. The most valuable Shoushan stones are Tian Huang and Fu Rong, which are rare in market and precious.

This stone’s hardness is moderate. It is suitable for different levels of seal carvers. This stone is ‘pure’ which almost does not have cracks, nor impurity substances. It is a perfect choice for detailed seal carvings.

Qingtian Stone 青田石

Qingtian stone is probably the most widely used seal stones. It is mostly from Qingtian county 青田 of Zhe Jiang province 浙江. It is a type of volcanic rock. The major components of the stone are Al2[Si4O10](OH)2 and SiO2. Density is 2.6 – 2.7 ton/ m3. The recording history of the usage of this stone is over 1700 years.

Qingtian stone can be different colours too. However, compared to Shoushan stone, Qingtian stone has much lighter colours while Shoushan stones mostly have strong colours. The most famous Qingtian stone is Deng Guang Dong 灯光冻 and Feng Men Qing 封门青.

This stone is very widely used because it is very affordable. Normally it is around 1 to 2 USD per stone. However, normal Qingtian stone mostly have cracks or impurity substances. This is not easy to carve and is not suitable for detailed designs. Nevertheless, if you plan to carve oracle style words which requires special worn-out marks to create this imperfect feeling, Qingtian stone can be a good option.

Balin Stone 巴林石

seal stones

Balin stone is from Mongolia. It was discovered over 800 years ago and was used specially for royal supply in history. It was named by Genghis Khan 成吉思汗 as ‘stone granted by god’. It is normally reputed as ‘treasure of prairie’. (*Mongolia is mostly covered by prairie.) It was first massively excavated in 1970s. Since then, public has more access to this special stone.

It has different colours but mostly are green, white, yellow. Some are in pink and pink stones are the more precious ones.

It is a very ‘young’ natural stone but combines all the advantages of the other three most famous Chinese seals stones. This stone is moderate, pure, and has a very beautiful creamy texture and appearance. It is perfect for all levels seal carvers. The normal price in market is starting from 6 USD per stone.

This is also Inkston’s selection. After testing different stones ourselves and consulting various seal artists, we found Balin stone has the best price-quality ratio and great for people who has limited access to cheap fine seal stones. They are beautiful stones which is creamy and looks like jade.

Changhua Stone 昌化石

Changhua stone is from Changhua town 昌化镇, Zhe Jiang province 浙江. Most of Changhua stones are not translucent. There are many subcategories of Changhua stone. However, the majority of this stone has white impurity substances. The most precious Changhua stones are the ones which has no impurity substances.

This stone is hard compared to other types of seal stones. Therefore, it is easy to get cracks during carving. As a result of this, we do not recommend non-experienced seal carvers to try this stone. The high grade Changhua stones are very beautiful, rare, and precious. In fact, most Changhua stones in market are not suitable for beginners nor intermediate level carvers.

How to choose a proper seal stone?

Choose natural stones which are not artificially coloured. We recommend you to choose stone from any of the four stones types we have mentioned in the first part of this article.

1, try to avoid cracks or impurities, because any of these would cause easy damages to the stone while carving. This happens more often especially when you are not experienced enough to control your carving knifes and strength. Therefore, a smooth and pure stone is the best option since this does not require you to keep adjusting your carving skills and strength.

2, choose proper hardness. Stones such as crystal and jade are beautiful but they are never suitable to carve seals unless you use machine to carve it. This is because crystal and jade are too hard. There are many other stones which have suitable hardness but please test them with your carving knives and hand before ordering them. Unless you are very experienced at  seal carving and familiar with natural stone chemical  and physical features, please choose among the four most famous seal stones.

3, choose stones which have even colours. Normally the more even the colour is, the more stable the stone is too. However, sometimes in order to make the stone look more beautiful, there are some patterns on the stone. In this case, there is always one side which is left with pure even colour. Please carve on this pure side.

white seal stone square

4, choose proper carving knives. In a different article we will talk about carving knives specially. Please subscribe our newsletter if you want to know the latest update of inkston. 🙂

Posted on 3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Chinese Seal Stones

  1. can I ask why you are not selling the red ,chicken blood stone ,and the other mustard colour one?

    1. Dear charleslaurence,

      Thanks for your good question! These three types are not typical stone for Balin stone. They belong to other stone types. We might supply them one day once we find good ones which has great quality-price ratio. This would take us longer time because the red, chicken blood stone are mostly modified by chemicals and we do not want this. We also do not want to list precious super high grade stones because they might not be suitable for most of our clients. The mustard colour one, is mostly seen in Qintian stone.
      If you need these colours which are not modified and high professional grade, yes, we supply them upon request. You can send us one email. 🙂

      kind regards,
      Inkston Customer Helper

  2. This was very helpful. So glad Inkston encourages other people to create their own stamps and gives the resources and knowledge on how to do so.

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