Sun, 14 Sep 2003

Sizing up the right stones for a suiseki display

Suiseki is more than just beautifully shaped ornamental stones. In order to please eyes and uplift spirits, an esthetic stone must measure up to certain criteria to deserve the qualification of suiseki.

Experienced collectors value an esthetic stone based on its shape, stone quality and colors. The shapes ideally reflect balance, proportion, rhythm, harmony and unity with good colors and textures.

These factors -- when harmoniously combined with an artistic concept to create the base and display the stone -- highlight a sense of continuance, grandeur, movement and serenity that the shape of a particular stone suggests.

A good mountain-shaped suiseki, for instance, has a peak that is not located right at the center and that makes up one third of the total stone. The stone's width to length ratio should be 1:2, with the front part lower than the middle part and the rear part the tallest. These aspects help ensure a stone has a pleasing multilayered view.

Suiseki can be of different stones, like sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone, or fossilized stones.

A good suiseki has a hardness level from 4.5 Mohs to 8 Mohs. The Mohs' scale is a scale of hardness for minerals, in which 1 represents the hardness of talc and 15 is the hardness of a diamond (10 on the original scale), according to The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary of English Language.

Stones with a hardness level below that range are porous and easily corroded, while those with higher hardness level can be classified into semiprecious or precious stones that have a "cold" appearance and lack of soft effect.

It is said that young-aged stones have the traits of young people, while old stones reflect maturity.

Mineral contents in the stones determine their colors, which can vary from white to black. It is popularly believed dark colored stones exude energy, and reflect simplicity and persistence. In Japan, dark-colored, smooth-textured suiseki are considered good meditative tools.

Indonesia, with its volcanoes and its mineral-rich soil, is reputed to be a good place to find suiseki of different rocks and colors, and has attracted suiseki enthusiasts as well as collectors from other countries. Despite this fact, only a few locations in this extensive territory have been explored for their potential.

-- Maria Endah Hulupi