Scagliola, from the Italian scaglia, meaning "chips" is a technique for producing plasterwork that resembles ornamental marble. It is made from pigmented gypsum and the craft flourished across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Scagliola is made from pigmented gypsum or Plaster of Paris mixed with earth or mineral pigments and glue to produce color. Many techniques have been developed to mix and apply it and the result resembles natural marble or granite, specially after applying the finish which consists of polishing it to a marble-like sheen.
The technique began and developed as a picture making art form in the early 17th century in northern Italy. It was used to produce some spectacular examples of pictorial inlaid table-tops.
In Germany scagliola was employed as a decorative finish in churches, and caught on in England as a way of imitating marble. By the 18th century scagliola columns were featured in many important buildings.
The labor intensive process, and the introduction of mass produced materials made scagliola a thing of the past. However, lately there has been a renewed interest and many are re-exploring the craft to enable the conservation of earlier work not only in furniture, but architecture as well.