By Charlotte Butterfield
After a period of uncertainty in the stone industry, reports suggest the future looks brighter. CID presents a brief report on the state of the market and a guide to choosing the best stone for your interior project.
Industry Revival|~|Stone-body-1.gif|~||~|INDUSTRY REVIVAL
The main event in the stone industry’s calendar is the annual CarraraMarmotec in Italy and the 2006 expo in June boasted over 20,000 operators from 99 countries. There was a substantial increase in the number of visitors from historically important partners such as the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Denmark as well as from new producers and partners such as Iran, the Czech Republic, Lebanon and Qatar.
Giancarlo Tonini, president of CarraraFiere, stated that this year’s exhibition was evidence of a recovering stone industry: “[The fair] was a satisfactory result, especially because it seems to confirm, at least partly, those positive signs that have come up over the last few months and that have given confidence back to the companies, especially the Italian companies… The first ones to feel such winds of change have been the companies that are based in the historical marble-quarrying and processing regions that took part in the fair.” The Mayor of Carrara, Giulio Conti described this 27th CarraraMarmotec as “the fair of revival,” after a long stagnation in the number of exports.
||**|||~|Stone-body-2.gif|~||~|In the first four months of 2006, Italy exported 1,440,000 tons of raw and finished marble, granite and travertine for a value of almost 560 million euros (AED2.6billion). These figures show only a 1% growth in quantity from the same period in 2005, but a 9% rise in value.
Exports to the Far East have restarted, mainly due to the increase of exports to China. A slow but steady growth is reported in India, while the up-and-coming countries, such as Brazil and Russia have given a decisive contribution to the progress of the industry. A recent article in StoneReport suggested that despite the current international events unfolding in the Middle East, the region’s voracity for natural stone, principally marble, shows no signs of abating. “The UAE exceeds Saudi Arabia by value and they love marble, and Qatar and Kuwait follow.” Jordan has growing imports and until the end of April this year, Lebanon was the fourth largest partner in the area.
Established in 1977, Carrara Middle East imports a wide range of quality marble, granite, travertine and natural / agglomerated stones from all over the world to its own factories in Dubai. Michel Melki, general manager, Carrara Middle East, agrees that the market is strong in the region: “There is a good demand for marble products both in Dubai and the GCC and today there are more than 10,000 known quality stones with hundreds of new stones being introduced in the market every year.”
||**|||~|stone-body-3.gif|~||~|One company in Dubai to be offering these varied collections of semi-precious stones for interiors, is Amazing Stone. Sales manager, Isabel de Guio, explains: “From the white of Classic Quartz to the dark chocolate brown of Twilight Jasper, the collection covers almost the whole spectrum through a choice of more than 45 stone combinations, including the varieties of Agate, Quartz and Jasper. We are also exclusively representing worldwide the works of Rajasp, rough semi-precious stones turned into marvellous sculptures through hard and patient handcrafting and hand polishing, which are unique pieces suitable to embellish villas, offices and hotels.”
Melki introduces the importance of research when choosing the right stones for a project: “When specifying marble, designers should fully investigate the proposed stone and satisfy themselves about the following points: That the quarry is producing the material in sufficient quantity for the project and within the specified time frame; that the colour variation is within the acceptable designer range. They should ask for a full size mock-up instead of approving small samples, which are almost impossible to match and make the client aware that he is dealing with a natural material, which involves colour variations which are inherent to this type of finish, and they should not expect absolute colour uniformity.”
||**|||~|stone-body-4.gif|~||~|Natural stones are graded depending on their colour variation and other characteristics. The grading is also dependent on the quarry the stone originated from. Across the brand name, the product can differ substantially in colour, pattern and texture between quarries.
While tempting to opt for a lower grade to cut costs, not only will there be aesthetic differences, the technical make-up of the stone will also be inferior. Lower grade stones may break more easily, have poor fillings and have more holes. If natural stones are ever presented at a suspiciously low bargain price then the reality is that there will be a quality issue.
The days of substandard stones and counterfeit inferior products may be nearing an end in Europe though, with the launch of a new trademark designed to promote and protect natural stone products. Euroroc (the Federation of European marble producers) has devised a blue logo (the colour of Europe) portraying a sketched block and slab, under which each country will place the translation of ‘real stone’ in their native languages. The Italian version, which will be the most prolific, is ‘Pietra Autentica’ (Authentic Stone). ||**||Rock Guide|~|Stone-body5.gif|~||~|
Marble is still widely considered the most luxurious stone. It is a metamorphic rock resulting from the recrystallisation of limestone. Commercially, however, all calcareous rocks produced by nature that can be polished are called marbles, as are some dolomite and serpentine rocks. Marble is often categorised in four groupings – A, B, C, and D.
GROUP A: Near perfect marbles with no geological flaws.
GROUP B: Very good quality, but with slightly less favourable working qualities.
GROUP C: Variable quality; geological flaws, voids, veins and lines of separation are usual.
GROUP D: Contains a large proportion of natural faults; has maximum variations in working qualities. This group comprises many of the highly coloured marbles prized for their decorative values.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcium that was deposited by the remains of marine animals. It is usually light in colour and is harder than marble. It has a smooth, granular, hard surface. Common colours are black, white, grey, brown and yellow.
Limestone contains a number of discernible natural characteristics, including calcite streaks or spots, fossils or shell formations, pit holes, reedy formations, open texture streaks, honeycomb formations, iron spots and grain formation changes. One or a combination of these characteristics will affect the texture.
Slate is a dense fine-grained fissile belonging to the metamorphic group of rocks, which is derived from clays and shale and is able to be split into thin sheets. Slate designed solely for interior use is designated with an “I” or “interior” on specification sheets. Slate for exterior use is labelled as either “E” or “exterior” on specification sheets.
Slate is commonly bluish-black or gray-black in colour, but red green, purple and variegated varieties are not uncommon.
Sandstone is a durable combination of quartz grains, usually found in light brown or red colours. Sandstones of various geologic ages are widely distributed. Besides serving as a natural reservoir for deposits of oil and gas, sandstone is used in building flagstone paving and in the manufacture of whetstones and grindstones.
Quartzite is a common and widely distributed rock composed mainly or entirely of quartz. The compact, granular rock is a form of metamorphosed sandstone. Other minerals that may be present in small amounts in quartzite include feldspar, mica, rutile, tourmaline, and zircon. It has a smooth surface and is mainly found among ancient rocks, such as those of the Cambrian or Precambrian system.
Often cited as a limestone and a marble, deposited by hot springs and usually light or red in colour. Travertine has been perennially popular in Italy and
Persia, and is now gaining global acclaim as a flooring or wall cladding that has a Mediterranean feel.
Contains natural fossils such as plant remains and sea shells, and is often considered a limestone.
Granite is the hardiest of all natural stones and has gained popularity in the kitchen design industry as a good alternative to marble for countertops and work surfaces.
It is an igneous rock of visible crystalline formation and texture and is usually whitish or gray and has a speckled appearance caused by the darker crystals. Normally granite is classified in three different groups: Fine Grain, Medium Grain or Coarse Grain, depending on the diametre of the imbedded crystals.
It is far stronger than sandstone, limestone, and marble and is therefore more difficult to quarry, so can be expensive.
It is an important building stone, the best grades being extremely resistant to weathering which is why in recent years about 83% of the stone used for monuments has been granite, and about 17% marble.Despite its strength, and that it is easier to maintain than marble, granite is still porous and will stain.
Honed – Provides a flat to low sheen gloss. Honed surfaces are smooth and very porous, therefore honed floors should always be protected with a penetrating sealer.
Flamed – Intense heat causes the crystals to burst, which forms a rough surface which is very porous and must be treated.
Sand-blasted – A mixture of sand and water flows over the surface resulting in a textured material which has a matte gloss.
Polished – A glossy, smooth surface that often shows signs of wear and erosion if in areas of heavy traffic. The polished crystals reflect the light and vibrancy of the natural stone.
Tumbled – Limestone and marble are tumbled to achieve a worn and aged appearance. A colour enhancer may have to be applied to bring out the colours of the stone.
Bush Hammered – A textured surface is achieved through a repetitive pounding.||**||