Meerschaum is a soft white stone which mineralogists call sepiolite (hydrous magnesium silicate, called lületaşı [LUR-leh-tah-shuh] in Turkish).
Sepetçi Köyü and Kozlubel are two villages at the center of the meerschaum mining area.
A wooden derrick is built above a rectangular pit dug to reach the vein of meerschaum. Men go down in the pit, sometimes 100 meters (328 feet) deep, to dig in the dirt for “white gold” (beyaz altin).
It’s now against the law to export block meerschaum from Turkey. The government realizes that by keeping the rough meerschaum in Turkey, it provides more jobs for the country’s master carvers.