Monthly Archives: March 2010

Test post 7XUGJANQNWKR

Sorry to do this, but they’d like to have something in here with the following number:

7XUGJANQNWKR

Name That … Whatever

There’s one point of contention I’ve dealt with since day one of Stone Business: quartz. Or, engineered stone. No, make that agglomerate. Wait, maybe it’s ….

Just talking about something that’s not directly taken from the ground and cut up in to nice, polished slabs and tiles can result in heated arguments among fabricators, installers and other industry professionals. It won’t stop anytime soon, either.

Neither will the debate on what to call the material, or at least in wordage presentable enough for the dinner table (notwithstanding the fact that my mother often had language saltier than the food she cooked). Assigning terms that fit the growing number of surfaces available for fabrication gets harder by the day.

When Stone Business first appeared in the Early Oughts, the common term was engineered stone – the favorite from Breton S.p.A, the Italian company offering the most-popular technology for the process. At the time, we went with the flow.

Not long after that, I went through the rite of passage in spending the better part of two hours on the phone with Marty Davis, Cambria’s chief, over the term. In all the words, he made a good point; you can use more than ground quartz to create slabs and tiles with Breton’s machinery. He preferred natural quartz, which we tried on for size and kept using for more than five years.

We carefully noted natural stone as the term for quarried material. Eventually, natural quartz didn’t seem to have the right ring; when the radon question whipped up to a froth a few years ago, it sounded hollow. The defense of the man-made material as radon-free centered on the stuff never having something that occurs as part of a natural process, so why include natural as part of the tag?

We finally settled on quartz surface to differentiate it from the total man-made materials of solid surface. Unfortunately, as we enter the age of sustainability, we face a whole new set of challenges in defining surfaces.

For one thing, there are the surfaces incorporating exotic and semi-precious stones (such as those from Amazing Stone Ltd. and Caesarstone’s Concetto®) that use resins or other man-made materials to bind everything together for slicing into nice cross-section slabs. Great-looking material highlighting natural stone, to be sure, but it doesn’t occur this way in nature; it’s manufactured. The best term we’ve developed is exotic surface, but it still doesn’t quite hit the stone part of the material.

Technically, it’s an agglomerate, but then we enter the realm of terrazzo and – as Davis pointed out – the fact that the heat-and-pressure Breton process can also be used to form slabs of small pieces of granite, marble or any other natural stone. All are agglomerates.

Luckily, the sustainability movement gives us an out for much of the new combinations.  Since the big push now is for green material, most of the new selections (such as Caesarstone’s Recycled Collection, Cosentino’s ECO® and Santa Margherita’s SECOND.LIFE®) fit the term recycled surface (with the original material added as a modifier, such as “recycled quartz surface”).

But, there’s another set of surfaces fitting the bill as agglomerates and recycled materials, such as IceStone® and Vetrazzo®

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. The binder comes to the rescue here, allowing for the moniker of cementious slabs.

Of course, the central question for many in the industry keeps coming back: Why talk about any of these non-quarried products?

The short answer is one Stone Business arrived at before its first issue: The surfaces can be fabricated. None of it is traditional quarried stone (and we’re careful to not misrepresent this), but it requires much the same equipment, tooling and skill to turn slabs into tops, splashes, surrounds and other goods of the trade.

There’s always going to be an identity crisis over what we should talk about when it comes to materials. We just want to keep the names straight.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online, where you can also find Joe Becker’s Blog and follow a major restoration job of a Midwest cathedral’s stonework.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by wordpress.com, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.

StatWatch: Stone Imports, December 2009

At least the year didn’t end as awful as it began with stone imports, and some countries show positive numbers in a few categories. Overall, though, shipments remain well behind December 2008 totals.

The following is taken from data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. All figures give are for December 2009 (change from Decemberr 2008 amounts in parentheses). “Worked” stone is material that’s been shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished.

Worked Granite Value
Total: $73.4 million (-19.2%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $30.3 million (-11.9%)
Backfill: The end of the year didn’t scream recovery, but granite import values remained steady through much of 2009’s last quarter. China’s December values dropped 16% from the previous year, but volume (see next item) rose, indicating some softening in prices.

Worked Granite Volume
Total: 84,864 metric tons (-34.7%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ 36,8254 metric tons (-10.4%)
Backfill: China managed to squeak out a small (5.2%) gain from December 2008, but they had the only gain among granite’s Big Four. India’s up-and-down ride in 2009 finished flat, with December granite tonnage down 78% from the previous year.

Worked Marble Value
Total: $16.3 million (-24.2%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $7.9 million (-21.%)
Backfill: Italy remained unchallenged as marble’s top dog in value (what else is new), but Spain may be finally ending its U.S. export freefall with only a 2.3% drop in December marble values. Not the same story with Greece, which fell 78.5%.

Worked Marble Volume
Total: 14,234 metric tons (-17.1%)
Sector leader: China @ 5,571 metric tons (+48.3%)
Backfill: While Italy gets more for its marble, China continues to dominate the U.S. market in volume – although its streak of monthly increases in tonnage ended at seven in October.

Travertine Value
Total: $17.3 million (-36.0%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $10.6 million (-36.1%)
Backfill: Year-end trends don’t buck the year-long slowdown in export values by Turkey, which still controls two-thirds of the U.S. travertine market. The United Arab Emirates also continue to fall, with December 2009 values running 90.3% behind  the same time in 2008.

Travertine Volume
Total: 27,773 metric tons (-31.2%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 20,844 metric tons (-27.5%)
Backfill: Mexico’s two-month rise in travertine imports earlier in the fall proved to be an anomaly, as December volume is down by 7,000 metric tons from October. Everybody shipping more than 100 metric tons to the United States is down by more than 20% from December 2008.

Other Calcareous Value
Total: $8.9 million (-27.8%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $1.5 million (-37.2%)
Backfill: While nobody’s reporting positive numbers when compared to December 2008, several countries – Portugal, Spain and France – have less than 10% drops and are still in the $1 million range in import values. Lebanon stayed even at $648K … but China’s $599K is 58.8% behind last year.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online, where you can also find Joe Becker’s Blog and follow a major restoration job of a Midwest cathedral’s stonework.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by wordpress.com, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.

No Less a Need

For the first few months of 2010, we’ve seen some tragic events, especially with the major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. The scale of the misery and devastation, amplified by 24-hour cable-channel coverage and HDTV screens, can be overwhelming.

The larger-than-life scope often obscures the tragedies happening closer to home, to people you know. These personal misfortunes are no less troubling, traumatic or in need of our help.

I’d be surprised if any of you know Aron Cole. To be honest, I don’t, either – but I do know his father, Kevin Cole. Many in the trade met Kevin in the past few years, either as a past editor of Surface Fabrication or as communications director for the International Surface Fabrication Association (ISFA). He’s taken a keen interest in the trade and been doing yeoman work for the ISFA in the past year.

He’s also a single dad with three children. Aron, at 18, is the oldest, having just reached that milestone birthday in the middle of last month.

Right now, we don’t know if Aron will see another one.

ISFA Executive Director Russ Lee informed the group today that Aron was involved in a traffic accident last week, hit by a driver allegedly under the influence. Aron suffered severe head injuries and, at this point, has less than a 20-percent-chance of surviving.

It’s a tough time for Kevin, with the other two children (ages 12 and 13) at home and Aron in a hospital some three hours away.

It’s obvious that Kevin and his family need all the emotional and spiritual support we can offer. There are also plenty of real expenses involved that aren’t covered by even the best insurance policy as a single parent tries to cope with a family life thrown in chaos.

That’s where we come in. As I noted, you probably don’t know Aron. You may know Kevin from a visit at a trade show, or a picture next to his magazine column. The point is that you know him now, and he’s not going to get a spot on CNN or his own toll-free help line.

The ISFA is opening the Aron Cole Fund. A contribution here doesn’t pay for massive airlifts; it goes toward filling a gas tank for long drives from home. It makes every day less-daunting, and shows that people out there care for somebody who’s stretched beyond limits they didn’t think possible.

You can contribute by credit card by calling the ISFA at 877-464-7732 – or, you can do it quickly, right after you read this, by going to ISFAnow.org and using PayPal.

After all, he’s one of us.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by wordpress.com, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from any of them, either.