Cloudy White Marble

Are We Dealing With the Defects of Natural Stone the Wrong Way?

(Last Updated On: 09/08/2020)

Have you felt tired after join the natural stone industry for more than 20 years? I once asked my boss – Old Mr. Wong.

“Tired, not just tired, but pretty tired.” He answered me.

The reason isn’t because of the heavy and difficult task of production, but the numerous problems and troubles brings by the various stone defects during production.

More than twenty years in the industry, he himself can not count the number of projects he has worked on. It can be said that not many of the projects were easy to complete, but they were all completed after numerous “hardships”, “war of mouth”, and many “sleepless nights”.

As a stone practitioner, we are all wrong in dealing with the defects of natural stone.

We’ve been treating the natural materials given by nature mother as industrialized and controllable products. We’ve been wasting and exploiting them as we pleased. We’ve been consuming the most expensive products in the world at the lowest prices, without understanding their preciousness and hard-earned value.

It’s also popular in the interior and exterior decoration, although natural stone is a traditional and long history of building material. But there are always constant conflict and financial disputes between stone seller and buyer, because of so called “defects” of natural stone. Usually, the money lose is thousands or even millions of dollars.

Paris Imperiale Marble
Paris Imperiale Marble

What is particularly serious is to cause the material pending and affecting the project schedule. Such losses cannot be estimated in dollars.

It has seriously affected the normal production and business orders of the respective parties.

This economic anomaly is mostly due to disputes over so-called “defects” in natural stone. It is much easier to resolve such problems, if the two parties start from the point of view of mutual consultation and seeking common ground while reserving differences.

Because of the “natural” peculiarities of stone, it is different from any other decoration materials, which can follow the will of man, and perfectly meet our requirements.

Natural stone is formed over hundreds of millions of years by a variety of geological actions, and the external physical and chemical characteristics of its formation are difficult to remedy by after-the-fact methods, such as chromatic aberrations, color spots, color lines, and the thickness of the grain.

Although, a variety of stone surface repair technology is constantly born, but the effect after repairing is still difficult to 100% the same with its original appearance.

As for the color difference, texture, uniformity and consistency of the surface, are all unable to change artificially. Why do we always demand perfection for natural stone?

We must take seriously the common “defects” of natural stone. We must understand its characteristics and features so that we can correctly use the certain “defects” of natural stone during production, do not really take them as waste.

Few defects of natural stone

  • Cracks: small cracks in the rock. There are obvious cracks and obscure cracks.

Obvious cracks are those cracks that are obvious and the crack lines can be seen from the appearance of the blocks before processing.

Obscure cracks are those cracks that are not obvious, and it is difficult to distinguish the crack lines from the appearance the blocks before processing.

Some cracks are naturally present in the stone itself and cannot be avoided; Some are caused by the unreasonable mining methods adopted.

Stone cracks are more commonly found in marble. Especially beige marble, such as Crema Marfil Marble, Paris Imperiale Marble, Rose Cream Marble, Botticino Classico Marble and Omani Beige Marble, etc. and white marble, such as Bianco Carrara Marble, Ariston White Marble and Elba Blue Marble, etc.

If many natural marbles are required to have no cracks, then the stone manufacturers had better abandon this “hot potato” project, and do not end up in court with the clients.

  • Color Stain: spot-like substance or strange substance that is different from the basic color of the stone surface.

Color stain is more prevalent in white marble, such as Volakas White Marble, Cloudy White Marble and Arabescato Carrara Marble, etc. as well as granite like Blue Star Granite, Sardinia White Granite and Antique Brown Granite.

The color stain of the stone is formed naturally, and it is not a defect if used well in the processing of stone products. It can also be decorated with good effects.

As a stone practitioner, we can’t be influenced by the thoughts of others, and treat stain as a “flaw” of stone.

  • Color Line: a striped or strip-shaped substance that is different from the stone surface color pattern.

Usually, it usually appears as red, white, yellow, and black crystal line. Color line is unavoidable for some stone materials. It can also be made good decorative effect after proper adjusting according to the installation layout.

Some stone manufacturers or clients take the method of digging and patching or dyeing the color line. I don’t think this method advisable.

  • Trachoma: A naturally formed pit with a certain depth, and diameter below 2mm.

Trachoma is more commonly found in sandstone like Pietra Serena Sandstone.

  • Hole: Naturally formed pit with a certain depth, and diameter more than 2mm.

Stone hole is more common in travertine, emperador brown marble and emperador light marble.

  • Mildew Stain: a naturally occurring green or dark green moldy substance.
  • Color Difference: Another type of color that is inconsistent with the basic color of the stone on the surface.

The color difference is more common in marble like Crema Marfil Marble, Grey Fume Marble and Tundra Grey Marble.

Cloudy White Marble
Cloudy White Marble

With regard to the stone defects mentioned above, based on the technology of today’s stone manufacturers, cracks, color stain, rust spots, mildew stains, trachoma and hole are mainly treated by manual repair. “dig, patch, fill” is the primary means of dealing with these defects.

As for the color difference and color line, the stone manufacturer has not yet found an effective and simple method to completely solve the technical problems.

Use dyeing to reduce or eliminate the color difference of the stone. Stone dyeing technology can change the low tone of the original stone, eliminate and reduce the color difference of the stone, make the color of the stone more beautiful, and improve the grade of the stone.

However, I think it is not advisable to try to change and eliminate the color difference by dyeing the stone. Since it is decided to use natural stone, it is necessary to recognize the color difference of the natural stone and let them show the natural color and texture of the stone itself. But my concept is basically unworkable internationally, and few people agree.

Grey Fume Marble
Grey Fume Marble

In the attitude of dealing with stone cracks, the client’s requirements are stricter, I think it is beyond reproach. Because customers mostly start from the perspective of product safety to ensure the safety of product use.

However, in the treatment of the color difference, I am difficult to understand the requirement that the stone should not have or only has small color difference. Because the color difference is the inherent characteristic of natural stone, just as the beauty of human is not determined by oneself, it is caused by nature.

As long as the decoration of buildings is still using natural stone, the natural defects of stone will inevitably exist in the stone more or less, which is difficult to overcome or eliminate.

If a stone building decoration project tries to make an effect without the defects of natural stone, I can do nothing but only suggest to use ceramic tiles instead! In dealing with natural stone defects, we should not continue to make mistakes!

By Jack Wong

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