Most of us know talc only in the form of a body powder. But talc has many important uses. Talc is a mineral—the softest mineral known to man. It can be scratched easily with a fingernail. It is made of tiny flakes, or scales, of magnesium. Talc may be silvery white or even a delicate green.
When talc is in solid form it is called “soapstone”. In this form, it is usually greyish or greenish in color and is very soft and greasy to the touch. Often it has brown spots. The best quality talc comes from Piedmont, Italy. There are also deposits in England, Canada, Germany, and Zimbabwe. In the United States, mainly along the Atlantic Coast, there is more talc than in all the rest of the world.
Because it resists ordinary heat so well and can be easily shaped, soapstone was used in the making of household articles. For this reason it was sometimes called “potstone”. Cooking utensils and parts of stoves were sometimes made from it. Laundry tubs and sinks were also made from soapstone.
Soapstone hardens at high temperatures, and so is used for lining furnaces. Slabs of soapstonc are used for acid tanks in laboratories, as it cannot easily be eaten away. It is a poor conductor of electricity, and for this reason can be used as a base for switchboards and electrical insulation.
Many primitive people have shaped this mineral into cooking utensils. And the ancient Egyptians carved talc into charms, which they coated with a colored glaze. About three-quarters of the talc processed in the Western World gom into the manufacture of paint, glazed tilts, and other ceramic products, roofing, paper, and rubber.
What Does Talc Come From?
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, mined from the earth, composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen.