from the Arabic al bastraton , a whitish stone or from Alabastron , the place in Egypt where it is found. It occurs only in The ancients considered alabaster to be the best material in which to preserve their ointments. The Oriental alabaster (referred to in the Bible) is a translucent carbonate of lime, formed on the floors of limestone caves by the percolation of water. It is of the same material as our marbles, but differently formed. It is usually clouded or banded like agate, hence sometimes called onyx marble. Our common alabaster is different from this, being a variety of gypsum or sulphate of lime, used In its finer forms for vases, etc.; in the coarser it is ground up for plaster of Paris. The noted sculptured slabs from Nineveh are made of this material.
In modern mineralogy alabaster is crystalline gypsum or sulphate of lime. The Greek word alabastron or alabastos meant a stone casket or vase, and alabastites was used for the stone of which the casket was made. This stone was usually crystalline stalagmitic rock or carbonate of lime, now often called oriental alabaster, to distinguish it from gypsum.