How to Tell the Difference Between Plaster of Paris & Chalkware

Plaster of Paris is used to fill and create molds for sculptures.

Plaster of Paris is a mixture of powdered and heat-treated gypsum. When mixed with water, the substance hardens into a smooth, solid object. Because the plaster hardens before the water can evaporate, the plaster maintains its size and shape. Plaster of Paris is used in constructions as well as sculpture, where it can be used to mold material or be molded by material. Chalkware is a a form of plaster of Paris used to create figurine collectibles that was popular in the 19th Century in the United States.

Step 1

Recognize chalkware by its typical shapes: small figurines molded in the image of kings, heroes, animals and shepherds.

Step 2

Identify mold lines or creases to confirm that an object is made of chalkware.

Step 3

Look for figurines painted with tempura, watercolor or oil-based paint, as most chalkware is painted using these materials.