It may not be often that you sit at your countertop and wonder about where it originated, but if you’re curious about where your food comes from, why not learn about the lifecycle of your kitchen countertop?
There’s a piece of geologic history in every slab of natural stone. The beautiful slabs of granite, marble and quartzite showcased at The Granite Place truly offer a glimpse into the past. The movement in the stone that visually catches the eye like fine art is a real representation of the movement of the Earth over time.
Why is Location Important?
Various locations around the world experienced different geologic pasts. Some regions were marked by dramatic earthquakes as the Earth’s tectonic plates crashed into each other, eventually forming mountains over time; other regions grew mountains more slowly with the gradual shifting and lifting of the tectonic plates. Still other landmasses spent millions of years under water, accumulating vast deposits of limestone and calcite that also eased its way closer to the surface of the soil as the Earth adjusted itself. From all this very slow activity – and the pressure under which the layers of minerals and other debris melded together deep beneath the grasses and forests and mountains and volcanoes – came natural stone. Many of these same stones adorn kitchens, bathrooms and showrooms around the globe, including The Granite Place.
The History of Granite and Quartzite
Granite, for instance, is an igneous stone formed from magma. Most granite began as molten magma deep beneath the Earth. As tectonic plates shifted, the magma moved closer to the surface and slowly cooled to form the stone we all know as granite today. Different minerals present at the time the granite was formed account for the large variety of granite available around the world.
Some unique “granite” variations include the black granites, such as absolute black. Absolute black, and some other black varieties, were formed from volcanic magma that cooled rapidly, closer to the surface of the Earth. These granites are technically basalts.
Metamorphic stones, such as quartzite, were formed entirely from pressure. Quartzite is formed from grains of sand that fuse together and crystalize under pressure. Sandstone, though less durable when it comes to staining, is closely related to quartzite – the only difference is the level of pressure the mineral composition has endured. The colors present in quartzite and sandstone come from the sands and other minerals that were carried through the sand by water.
The History of Marble
Marble is another metamorphic stone, formed from the oceans. Shells and other calcium rich debris made of calcite or dolomite formed crystals under intense heat and pressure, deep underground. Marble is found in most mountainous regions that were at some point in time under water. The top marble producing countries are Italy, Spain and China.
Marble has been excavated for centuries. The Carrera quarry in Carrera, Italy is among the oldest quarries on Earth that is still in production. Michelangelo’s statue of David, carved in the early 1500s was chiseled from Carrera marble, for example. The Granite Place today sells exquisite marble from the exact same quarry in Carrera, Italy. Calcutta Gold is another popular marble.
Another more modern marble, called Fantasy Brown, comes from much more recently discovered quarries in the Northern India region of Rajasthan. Fantasy Brown is actually a combination of marble and quartzite. The ingredients that form the two types of stone layered over each other over time and fused together under the pressure of the Earth above, creating a lovely, neutral colored stone that is durable and versatile. The Granite Place also carries plenty of Fantasy Brown, as it is one of the most popular natural stones for kitchen and bathroom countertops today.
New Discoveries of Quarries and Technology
New quarries are always being discovered, adding to the variety customers have now grown to expect. All types of natural stone are quarried from the Earth using pit mining techniques. Prospectors will scope out a location where natural stone is expected to exist and look for a small outcropping of stone that has become exposed by wind and rain. Once a site is selected, the soil and plants above are cleared to make way for machinery to excavate the stone.
First, diamond-tipped drills are used to bore holes into the rock to extract a core sample. The sample is analyzed for the stone’s quality and characteristics. It needs to have low porosity and adequate hardness to serve as a natural stone surface. Once the quality of the stone is verified, natural cracks are located or more holes are drilled, where small explosives are precisely placed to blast apart the rock with minimal damage. It is important that the stone is removed in square blocks so that it can easily be cut into even slabs.
The whole process of finding a new quarry site and obtaining the environmental permits to proceed with the quarry operation can take several years. Despite the wait, the production of natural stone slabs is growing as technology advancements make it easier and faster to mine, as well as to cut extremely hard stones. Quartzite is among the hardest of stones and was not heavily mined until the 1990s, when advancements in stone cutting technology made it easier to slice into slabs. Advancements in technology, using diamond wire cutters, instead of gang saws, also made cutting the stone more environmentally friendly by reducing waste.
The natural stone suppliers for The Granite Place are located all around the world. Brazil is among the top suppliers and is one of the largest exporters of natural stone in the world. Brazil produces granite, marble, quartzite and many exotic stones, such as blue Bahia, Patagonia and Fusion. The Granite Place also imports natural stone from Italy, India and Africa.
The vast array of natural stone available on the market today and at The Granite Place makes it nearly impossible for someone looking for a natural stone countertop to walk away from the showroom without at least a few possibilities to ponder. Even if a person stops in for a look around, chances are they will be amazed at the variety of stone. Aside from the forest itself, or a natural history museum, there are few better reminders of the diversity of nature than visiting a natural stone showroom like The Granite Place.