Natural Stone Types and Granite Countertops

There are many different types of natural stones in the world and each has their own unique beauty, characteristics and applications for use. We have been able to identify some of the more popular stone types along with their properties, advantages and disadvantages and the most suitable usage in your home.

There are three different types of stones; Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary. The Igneous stone is formed by cooling, or solid-state transformation of molten or semi-molten material in the Earth’s upper mantle or crust. Because it is formed under extreme pressure and high heat, this type of stone or rock tends to be very strong and dense. The Metamorphic stone is formed from any preexisting rock type in the Earth’s crust under variable conditions of high pressures, high temperatures, chemistry, and time. This process produces mechanically deformed stone and chemically altered the mineral assemblages of the parent stone. Metamorphic stones tend to be some of the most beautiful, colorful, and highly figured of any of the dimensional stones. Note that many of the metamorphic stones are up to 3.8 billion years old.

The last being the sedimentary stone which falls into one of two categories: Detrital sedimentary stone and chemical sedimentary stone. Detrital stone is the naturally cemented accumulation of solid granular particles or materials derived from both mechanical and chemical weathering of any existing rock. Examples include limestone and sandstone.

Limestone and Sandstone can both be used for fireplaces, vanities, flooring and furniture. They are very soft, porous, scratch and require maintenance. Sandstone has a very rustic look with fossils while Limestone has a very unique look & feel, and is also available in multiple finishes. Limestone has actually become quite popular for kitchens.

Chemical sedimentary stone is formed from the precipitates of chemicals like salt that are the dissolved weathering products of any existing stone. Chemical weathering yields soluble salts that in turn are deposited into pools and springs. This process yields stone such as onyx and certain Travertine. Onyx has a translucent and stunning appearance, scratches very easily and is quite soft. Onyx can be used for furniture, architectural & design elements, fireplaces and for powder rooms. Travertine has a cloudy formation when cross cut it gives it a more unique look, it is softer than marble and limestone, and it has many larger voids and stains. Travertine is suitable for vanities, floors, fireplaces and dryer locations.

Granite is an example of an igneous rock; it has a very high concentration of quartz, making it very hard and difficult to scratch. It is heat resistant (under 1,500 Fahrenheit), stain resistant and impervious to acids. There are extraordinary selections and finishes of granites available. It can be used anywhere; kitchens, floors, wet/dry, and for indoor and outdoor applications.

Quartzite is another example of an extremely hard stone yet classified as a metamorphic stone; it is one of the hardest stones used in commercial applications.It was originally formed from sandstone, quartzite generally is found in muted earth tones: grays, whites, browns, and yellows. It is very hard, dense and acid resistant. It is harder than granite and has exceptionally low moisture absorption; it is suitable in any application, though cost may be a consideration.

Another example of a metamorphic stone is Soapstone. It is one of the most unusual stones used in the commercial market today. Soapstone is soft and carveable and is resistant to acid. It is also one of the most popular stones used in kitchens today. Soapstone is an excellent choice for fireplaces surrounds as it absorbs and releases heat evenly. In order to keep it looking dark and vibrant, it is recommended that countertops be treated with mineral oil every six months.

Marble is also a metamorphic stone, it is classic with an “old world” look, it develops character with age. It is porous, scratches, stains, etches and requires care and maintenance. Marble can be used for vanities, fireplaces, furniture tops and kitchen countertops as well if honed. Serpentine although most closely related to marble, is technically not a “true marble,” it is by definition a metamorphic limestone. Often called a “green marble,” serpentine is usually dark green with white veining. This look is sought in luxury bathrooms and grand entrances alike. It is a relatively hard stone and does not scratch as easily as a “true marble.” It is acid and scratch-resistant making it a great choice for kitchen countertops. Other applications are floors, vanities and any dry locations; it is not good for showers or for any other wet applications as it could tend to warp over time.

Slate is another metamorphic stone that has been used as a durable roofing material for years. It generally comes in dark gray shades with hues of blue, purple, green and brown. Slates hardness varies significantly. Softer slates are best used for flooring and non-stressed architectural elements, like fireplaces. It can also be used for counters and vanities. It is rustic, stain resistant except for oils and does requires maintenance.

It is very important when considering a project, to ensure that the right material is used for the application. Every stone has specific characteristics. Using the wrong stone in an application can lead to material failure, damage, or other conditions. Knowing which stone to use in an application only comes from years of experience and you should always consult with an experienced stone professional.

Norman Architecture

Norman Architecture, named so due to its roots in Normandy, arose in the Middle Ages. It began in the early 11th century and ended by the 12th century, following the Saxon architectural movement and preceding the Gothic movement. Norman architecture is a form of the prevailing Romanesque Architecture that was propagated by the Normans (or Vikings) who conquered England. Its development gave rise to large and impenetrable cathedrals, fortresses, castles, and fortifications.

The archetypal monastery building arose during this movement, with its squat buildings that were either rectangular or circular. For instance, the renowned abbey Mont-Saint-Michel was built in the Norman era. In fact, the majority of Norman Architecture is religious structures, from village churches to royal cathedrals. A hallmark of Norman churches is their cross-like shape, deriving from the Roman basilica pattern. These churches also had bell towers, or campaniles, which were built nearby the main church buildings.

The quintessential medieval castles are also a distinctly Norman innovation. They arose not only in England but also in Scotland, Ireland, Normandy, and even Italy. In Italy, however, Norman features were combined with Byzantine and Arabic styles, which made for less gloominess.

Norman Architecture is actually an outgrowth of Romanesque Architecture, which began in Lombardy, Italy. Romanesque derives much of its architecture from classic Roman styles, such as arches, vaults, columns, and arcades. It greatly utilized the rounded arch, a Roman invention. It also used a great variety of vault styles. The prevailing type was the barrel vault, a curved vault used widely in cloisters.

The building materials used in Norman Architecture mainly included stones, so as to give the buildings greater stability. These stones were uncut because there were no real architectural jobs, such as mason jobs, in the Norman era. Therefore, buildings were made up of large, irregularly shaped stones that contributed to their bulky look.

Norman roofs were vaulted, like their Roman predecessors. Vaults allowed for more balanced weight distribution across the roof. Norman buildings’ adornment was minimal, though some architects used their chisels to carve a series of arches into walls. These were not actual arches, but carvings giving a trompe de l’oeil effect. Moreover, some architects carved moldings onto stone surfaces. A minority of architects even became so adroit with their chisel that they sculpted animals onto reliefs over doorways, or tympanums. Arches and columns were also minimally decorated elements. As the Norman movement reached its peak in the 12th century, however, it gave rise to more ornamentation. This ornamentation gradually culminated in the first stained glass windows in the 12th century, directly before the Gothic Architecture took hold.

Norman Architecture is additionally distinguished by very small windows. Before the Gothic movement, architects avoided installing large windows because it increased the chances of building collapse. Therefore, people who resided in Norman buildings were in extremely dim surroundings, using candles as their only source of light. It wasn’t until the Gothic period that architects safely installed huge windows to let in an enormous quantity of light, giving cathedrals their celestial quality.

Yet, Romanesque and Norman Architecture also blazed new trails by installing much taller buildings, such as castles and cathedrals, which were the largest structures in Europe at that point. These buildings were usually square and inhabited by guards who worked as night watchmen, scanning the surrounding landscape for intruders.

With these taller buildings came much denser walls to give the needed support to these great heights. Inside these buildings, there were also large columns that bolstered structural support. These walls would become much thinner with the advent of flying buttresses, which arose in the Gothic movement.

One of England’s first pieces of Norman Architecture was London’s Westminster Abbey. Though this structure is now largely Gothic, it began as a Norman construction. Many Gothic structures, in fact, began as Norman buildings that were later elaborated on by Gothic architects. Many central towers (keeps) on castle and cathedral grounds were also Norman. These square, dense-walled structures were used as dungeons as well as defense fortresses. The Tower of London (also called the White Tower), which served as the royal dungeon, is another penultimate example of Norman Architecture. Like all Romanesque buildings, it was tall in its day, reaching about 90 feet high. It also contained extremely thick walls, spanning about 15 feet wide, to support that height. It is, like many Romanesque buildings, a fortress-like building.

While Gothic Architecture produced extremely tall, magnificent structures, these structures were essentially continuations of Norman Architecture. Gothic Architecture utilized pointed arches rather than Norman rounded arches, along with ribbed vaults that were combinations of Norman barrel vaults. Therefore, Gothic Architecture as we know it may not have taken place without its grounding in Norman Architecture.

Today, most people immediately associate Norman and Romanesque architectural styles with the fairy-tale medieval period. Architects have learned that these castles and cathedrals were not so much royal residences as densely armed fortifications. In truth, most Norman structures have been the sites of much bloodshed and suffering. The “Dark Ages,” by which the Middle Ages was alternately known, may have been due in part to the dimness of Norman buildings, as a result of their extremely small windows.

Today’s architects are not rebuilding Norman Architecture, except for historical reproduction purposes. Church builders, moreover, take more inspiration from the Gothic period than any other architectural period. However, most architects certainly regard the Norman movement as an architectural watershed. Norman Architecture realized unsurpassed heights and first renewed the magnificence of classical styles. Though taking place in a dark period, it manifested the collective desire to reawaken human greatness, as people perceived it in classical architecture. Part of Norman Architecture’s legacy was to have passed on this desire in large measure to the succeeding Renaissance era.

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Harrison has worked for the United States Department of Justice, a federal district judge and the law firms of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges and Dewey Ballantine. After three years of practice, Harrison founded Juriscape, under which he developed a collection of industry-specific job-search websites that revolutionized the way job seekers access employment postings from around the world. Harrison and his companies began serving the legal industry with BCG Attorney Search and LawCrossing. Following on the success of those endeavors, the company soon broadened its range to include the 90+ EmploymentCrossing websites, each specific to a particular industry or field. Juriscape changed its name to EmploymentScape in 2007 to reflect the company’s broadening focus.

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Stone Craft In India – A Preview

Different kinds of rock originated on earth after numerous geological activities. These rocks with their different compositions came to be called stones like Redstone, Soapstone, Sandstone, Limestone, Marble, Granite and many others. Indian landmass is also made up of several kinds of rocks and the stone obtained here has been used in making forts, palaces, temples, sculptures, household items and for other miscellaneous purposes. In India, stone crafting traditions have their roots in pre-historic times, as at that time the weapons and other tools were made of stone. More professional approach in stone craft came in 7th century BC. During this time, several guilds of stone carvers and masons existed in India. During Maurya rule stone craft reached to its perfection. A number of rock stupas, rock cut caves and Buddhist chaityas were raised during this period. In India, all kind of stone sculptures and structures used to be made according to Shilpshastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on sculpture and architecture.

Region Wise Study of Stone Craft in India

In India, there are some regions that are specifically rich in stone culture. A classical culture prevails there of stone crafts. Depending upon the type of stone found and the tools used, the style and the finishing has been different and unique.

Stone Carving Practices of Orissa:

Stone carving is one of the major handicrafts of Orissa. Several archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculpture, carves and magnificent temples testify the claim.
All these have undergone intricate and very fine stone carving by the deft hands of the artisans. The temples of Puri, Konark, Lingaraj, Parasurameshwar and Mukteshwar are just the wonders crafted in stone. Whereas the stupas erected at Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri are just par-excellence. The art of stone crafting reached pinnacle in the ancient and the early medieval period in Orissa with detailed exploration of each and every nuance of the stone craft. This art has automatically passed on to the present generation from their earlier generations. The present breed is not far behind its predecessors in creating the exact replica of the old masterpieces. Similarly, small sculptures are also made in big quantity catering to the huge demands of the visitors and the locals.

Stone Carving Practices of Rajasthan

Rajasthan has, though scarcity in wood and forest but it has abundant stone mineral.The landmass of Rajasthan is rich in different rocks like Granite, marble, Quartzite, Slate and other metamorphic rocks. The forts and palaces of Bharatpur, Baroli, Ramgarh, Nagda, Ajmer, Chittor, Mandsore, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Udaipur have been made using these stones. The jaaliwork or the latticework of Ajmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner is of fine quality and intricate finish. Rajasthan has most significant quarries of marble at Makrana. The marble mined here is used profoundly in the world famous stone sculpture of Taj Mahal as well as the stone wonder, Dilwara Jain Temple at Mt. Abu. The artistry in Dilwara Jain temple is exquisite, fine, intricate and just fascinating. Different places of Rajasthan are famous for different kind of stones found. Kota is the center of production of grey stone which is used in floor making. Similarly Barmer and Ajmer are famous for Yellowstone and granite respectively. Beautiful statues of deities are made using the soft stone mined from the quarries of Dungarpur. Jaipur is the place where sculptures of all kinds are made by white marble. The statues of deities carved in Rajasthan are sent to all areas of the country.

Stone Art Practices of Uttar Pradesh

Mathura, Varanasi and Agra are the famous centers for stone craft in Uttar Pradesh. Some pieces of stone sculptures have been found from the excavations at Mathura and other adjacent areas belonging to Maurya period. The interesting fact is that lavishly used stone in these sculptures is the red sandstone mined from the Chunar. It indicates that this land once used to be the center of stone carving art some thousands of years back. During medieval period under the Mughal rule, several beautiful palaces and forts were constructed chiefly with the help of stone. Some fascinating examples of the stone sculptures if Uttar Pradesh are: Red fort of Agra, The Taj Mahal, the palace of Fatehpur Sikri, The tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and many more.

In the present times the focus of the stone craftsmen is changing towards exploring new kinds of stones as well as new article to be made. Nowadays they make the stone sculptures that beautify the home or the gift articles like candle stands, ashtrays, jewelry boxes, and Taj replicas. Carved pillars, railings and fireplaces are the architectural objects that the craft persons are making.
Rupbas near Agra and Karauli are the quarries which have produced the red stone used in the forts and palaces Agra, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri.

At Varanasi the stone used is not hard marble but soft stone called Gorara. This is the stone that is brought from the Hamirpur and Mahoba areas. This stone has a unique quality to change its colors on polishing. Bowls and the servicing dishes are the popular products made of gorara stones. Sonia and Kalimohal areas of Varanasi and Gokulpura area of Agra are the centers of the main activities of stone craft in U.P.

Stone Art Practices of Southern India

In southern India, the temple architecture of Hoyasalas at Halebid and Belur are most exquisite and splendid example of stone craft. 57 Feet tall stone statue of Jain saint Gomateshwara at Shrabanbelgola is another example of marvelous stone art. Similarly, the ruins of Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi in Bellary are also the samples of glorious Indian tradition of Stone craft.

Other classic stone examples of stone craft in the southern part of India are: Meenakshi Temple Madurai and its 1000 pillared mandaps, Chidambaram Temple with beautiful panels depicting 108 karanas of the Natya Shastra, Kanchipuram accommodating a number of temples from he era of Pallawas to Nayaks and Granite carvings at Mamallapuram and Chingalpet. The Kailash temple at the Ellora caves is the monolithic structure whose craft is just unique and astonishingly beautiful.

The Emerging Architecture

Architecture is the art of designing and constructing buildings and other physical structures. Architecture is as old as human history because it is the basic need of a human being. Architecture symbolizes the history, culture, traditions, technology and climate of the nation. In primitive ages man was used to live in caves but with the passage of time trends changed. As “necessity is the mother of invention” human beings started to make houses made up of stones to protect themselves from extreme climatic conditions and also from wild animals. New innovations and new trends prevailed and human beings started to make houses with bricks made up of mud, then they started baking these bricks to make them much stronger to protect themselves from other natural disasters.

Till now, many of the artists and great philosophers have defined architecture but it has no static definition. It is the art which is directly concerned with all human beings because a man rather rich or poor, tall or short or may live in any part of the world has to face architecture in his lifetime. It can’t be avoided rather we like it or not. William Morris defined architecture as the “molding and altering to the human needs of the very face of the earth itself.” According to John Rustin, it is the art for all to learn because all are concerned with it. It is affected by climate, culture, technology and needs of the society. Architecture of a nation highly depicts the taste of its people. Architecture is also considered as frozen music. Sir Henry Watson says that architecture is commodity, firmness and delight.

Greek architecture is considered as most primitive architecture and long lasting too. In Greek architecture mostly Parthenon (Parthenon of Athens) and temples are included. This is also considered as one of the wonders of the world. Greeks mostly used stone carvings and the philosophy behind all their architecture is to make some place for worship. Ancient architecture mostly include stone carving, wood carving and most of the construction work is done by human hand which made it so unique. Most of the buildings are symmetrical where repetition of design and patterns can be seen. Similarly Roman, Gothic, Egyptian and Indian architecture is an elegant example of ancient architecture. It tells us all about the culture, climate and traditions of these civilizations. It seems that much hard work and struggle has been exerted to build these buildings. Materials used in these buildings are mostly natural like stone, marble, sand, wood etc. Repetition of ideas and materials could be seen in ancient architecture because of the lack of technology.

With the passage of time new inventions in the field of technology, chemistry and many other scientific fields are done. Many of the new materials have been introduced by the architects and chemists produced artificially at low cost. Today’s architecture is the blend of structuralism, formalism, high technology, expressionism and neo expressionism. Fast growing industries and professionalism give birth to modern architecture which is simple less ornamental but maximum people-oriented. Modern architecture is rich in inspiration and abstract ideas behind it. With the increasing complexity in architecture it is further divided into various branches. Environmental hazards are most hot issue today that’s why architects are trying to create designs which are environment friendly. Many of the architects gave stress on green building sustainable designs among them Sim Van der Ryn (1960), Ian Mc Harg (1970) UK and Brenda and Robert Vale from UK and New Zea land are most famous. Architects are now designing building which are self-sufficient in all energy demands. Dynamic Towers is the famous modern building which is good example of sustainable architecture which will be powered by water turbines and solar panels to fulfill its energy requirements.

In short, architecture whether good or bad has great impact on our lives. It is the symbol of the strength and progress of the nation but the architecture must be aesthetically pleasing and environment friendly to save our planet earth and to mold its face in a beautiful manner. Many trends have been passed away and many will come but its only purpose is to provide shelter for human beings and to create the world where they can live with peace and tranquility.