Plaster is a very versatile material which can be made to imitate the look and texture of stone or brick. When employed as-is, it is often soft, brittle, and matte. Polished plaster on the other hand is a highly decorative variety of plaster, often achieved through a number of different applique techniques, which are meant to replace or complement far more expensive materials like marble, granite, or stone inlays.

There are many different styles of polished plaster available, and these are used extensively in restoration work for many types of period décor, as well as for both interior and exterior applications. Polished plaster is by far superior to regular plaster in that it is aesthetically better, and it is more durable than run-of-the-mill plaster finishes.

It also doubles as an excellent alternative to expensive inlay work and other indoor and outdoor finishes, since it can imitate and even rival the texture, look, and appeal of materials like marble, limestone, granite, or travertine.

There are three common varieties of polished plaster, which are:

• Marmorino – a classical type of plaster that dates back to Roman times and quite popular for the Venetians at the height of their glory days, marmorino is made from a combination of crushed marble and lime putty that can be dyed or finished in wide assortment of textures, colours, or glosses.

• Scagliola
– scagliola is a technique for producing architectural elements that incorporate highly ornate or intricately detailed inlays. It was the ideal alternative for costly marble inlays, and provided superior detail and finesse that was otherwise impossible for marble or stone inlay applications.

• Sgraffito – a polished plaster technique specifically employed for wall décor that employs varying layers of tinted plaster in contrasting colours, to create a stylised effect imitative of carving or painting.

Whichever of the three methods are employed – all of which requiring significant expertise in the application of the medium – polished plaster provides the following advantages that regular plasterwork does not:

• Superior durability – because it is made from powdered or crushed marble combined with a plaster base, it is more durable than regular plaster and can take on the physical properties of marble, at an added cost.

• Affordability – polished plaster has long been considered an ideal alternative to stonework, since it is able to imitate the texture, properties, and aesthetics of stone for a lesser cost.

• Low-maintenance nature – polished plaster does not require the same sort of upkeep as regular plasterwork, and is ideal for both indoor and outdoor applications.

• Versatile artistic medium – polished plaster can be dyed, textured, or finished in a wide assortment of hues or glosses, and can even be left matte or flat. It works well with paint and can even be inlayed with other materials to imitate the look and feel of terrazzo.