The Älvdalen porphyry was formed 1.7 milliard (US billion) years ago in an area of 15 Swedish square miles (about 90 square miles). It is a vulcanic rock and contains the three minerals quartz, feldspar and mica. Porphyry is a cracked and hard kind of rock. On a scale of hardness of 1-10 it lies on 7. The hardness of diamond is 10. Porphyry is found in many different colour combinations. The most common is a red variety, called Bredvad porphyry. Among other things it gives our roads their red colour. Every porphyry variety has got its name from its locality.
2 000 B.C.
The Pharaohs worked porphyry.
To the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Greeks purple was the royal colour, and therefor porphyry (from Greek porfyreos, purple) suited them best of all minerals. Production of porphyry objects increased.
Cleopatra made red the royal colour instead of blue. The emperors alone were privileged to use the purple colour. Of red porphyry from the Red Sea area lots of porphyry objects such as wainscoting, flooring, sarcophagi, baths etc. were manufactured.
Once again the difficulty working the hard porphyry was overcome. E.g. porphyry was used by Louis XIV in Versailles and by the cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin as a symbol of power.
Porphyry for the first time was mentioned in writing in Swedish.
Carl von Linné paid attention to the porphyry in Älvdalen travelling through the region.
Experiments polishing porphyry were carried out.
Councillor Nils Adam Bielke showed samples of porphyry to Gustaf III. The king was interested and wanted to decorate the Haga Palace with porphyry.
ELFDAHLS PORFYRWERK (The Porphyry Works of Älvdalen) was founded by governors and industrialists in order to start production of porphyry objects. The company bought land in the village of Näset and Erik Hagström was appointed the first manager of the works. A few years later there were three grinding-mills with water-driven machines. The privately run company had great financial anxieties.
Karl XIV Johan bought the works in the name of his son Oscar (Oscar I).
The king received a gift of honour, the Rosendal vase, which stands in the park outside the Rosendal Palace in Stockholm. It has a diameter of 3.5 metres (11.7 feet), is 2.5 m (8.3 feet) high and holds 3 000 litres (about 6 000 pints). It weighs 9.5 tons (almost 21 000 pounds) and is made of Garberg granite from Gåsvarv. It took two years to manufacture.
Karl XIV Johan died. The making of the famous sarcophagus in the Riddarholm Church was started. Work went on for eight years and engaged a great part of the population in Älvdalen. The sarcophagus is made of the same kind of stone as the Rosendal vase, Garberg granite. It weighs 16 tons (about 35 000 pounds). The material was taken from Garberg.
The sarcophagus was ready to be delivered but had to wait for suitable surface for sledging for four years.
The winter was cold and snowy. Two big sledges were made, one for the sarcophagus and one for the lid. 180 strong local men were hired to pull the sarcophagus to Gävle, where they arrived after sixteen strenuous days. The sarcophagus was there loaded on to a steamboat to be transported to Stockholm.
Oscar I sold the Porphyry works to a business man in Älvdalen.
A devastating fire took place at the Porphyry works. Two of the three grinding-mills were destroyed. In the mill that was lefl a few workers continued to produce small objects. Production went on till the middle of the 1890s.
Frost Anders Andersson bought what was lefl of the machines and founded Älvdalens Nya Porfyrverk (the New Porphyry Works of Älvdalen) in the village of Väster Myckeläng (Västäng). There among other things the pillars that carry up the gallery in the church of Älvdalen were made.
King Carl XVI Gustaf opened the Porphyry Museum and the reconstructed Western grinding-mill at Porfyrgården (the Porphyry Mansion) in Näset.
© Information issued by the Porphyry Museum