You really should watch the following video--switch it to 720 and go full screen. It shows off Angel Manor Estate, which makes serious use of "materials".
It starts with what, if you don't look very closely, seems to be a shot of a man at a monitor showing Second Life as it was... cheesy, low-res, vaporous unrezzed avatars interminably hovering... but when the virtual camera pulls back, you realize it's showing on a monitor in a much different Second Life. Varnished woodwork and metallic ceilings, hardwood and marble floors. Fade out... and then fade in to a misty sun-dappled woods. After touring it, back to the outside of the manor through the seasons, and once again into the building to view the rooms, the furniture, a lunch gathering at a very ornate table laden with food, a theater, and on...
It's not perfect. One of the hardwood floors looks like the varnish is coating it to a considerable depth--for a second I wondered if we were on water. And of course, we humans are a lot pickier about recognizing humans than we are inanimate objects, so the gentleman, while quite good looking, doesn't tromp my oeil as much as the surroundings.
That said, it is utterly breathtaking. Metallic objects in Second Life have in the past required independent twin I-beam suspension on your disbelief--either they had painted-on highlights, or like some Indian jewelry in my inventory, were set to glow. The metal in Angel Manor Estate looks like metal. There's plenty of detail that is probably there thanks to bump mapping, and hence nowhere near the burden on your system or on SL that would otherwise be required.
Many, many thanks to Kaya Angel for this video. I hope that it won't be long before all of SL is as amazing.
Watch and then pick your jaw up off the floor.
UPDATE: Hereunder is a video of the manor from three year ago for comparison. The inspiration is there, but constrained by the SL rendering of the time.