Stone quarries are captivating, especially if you were a rock collector as a child or are a designer, architect or homeowner who appreciates the natural variation of color and texture on the surface of dimensional stone.
Most quarries are deep holes blasted into the side of a mountain. However, I have been to the largest underground quarry in the world. It runs one mile underground and is 6 levels and 30′ feet deep supported by massive roof pillars. It does feel a bit creepy with its dim lighting and cool 55 degree temperature.
Whether the quarry is above ground or below, mammoth blocks weighing about 35 tons are blasted from the rock formations, hauled out, and transported to fabrication plants. The blocks are cut in “slices” for residential or commercial use as slabs, tiles or mosaics.
There is always a sense of mystery surrounding a block of stone. Though geologists can usually tell when there is a fissure in the mountain, it’s not until the block is cut they can assess its internal condition. There can be fissures and unusual veins that render a block useless, or at the least, third quality. Today there are rigorous grading choices made to make the most out of every block of stone.
The scientific explanation of the formation of stone is very complicated. The long and short of it is whether stone is sedimentary or metamorphic; both were formed from the skeletons and shells of sea creatures that lived in vast warm seas millions of years ago. Intense heat and pressure caused the structure of some stone to re-crystallize and become hardened. These are the ones we call marble and can easily be polished. Limestone is lighter in color, not as hard as marble, and for the most part is not polished.
Today, porosity, permeability and other stone characteristics can be measured scientifically, but the wearability is only a guess. However, for thousands of years stone has been installed in the public arena, both indoors and out, so we have some measure of its durability.
Stone has to be loved for what it is (not what you want it to be) and from where it comes. It’s an incredible product of nature. It is hard and soft, it has extreme shade variation and tone, textured surface or smooth, it is light and dark, can be fabricated to large scale and small, and is extremely versatile. It can be casual or formal, and the material choices you make, from the hundreds that are available, help integrate all of the elements in the bath or other rooms of the house.
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