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Natural Stone Through the Millennia

by Daniel Morrell

Posted on January 01, 1970 12:00:00 AM

Sphinx and pyramid

The Great Pyramid of Giza is made of granite and limestone.

Ancient as the earth itself; made from the very same gas and liquid that solidified to form the earth, natural stone brings grace to many architectural wonders from the dawn of civilization to the present day. From ancient monuments, like the pyramids in Egypt and the majestic splendor of the Greek and Roman architecture, to the great civilizations of India and China, and right through the Renaissance period, natural stone is no longer the preserve of Royalty and the Affluent today. Famous like never before, natural stone remains the first choice for many homeowners and commercial enterprises for its durability, competitive pricing and aesthetic appeal.

A wonder in itself, natural stone traces its origins to heavy minerals pushed deep to the core by the earth’s crust when gas and liquid cooled to form a solid core. When the crust grew thicker, bearing pressure upon the inner core, generated heat from mineral vapors crystallized into solid forms. As the earth’s crust began to grow and erode, it pushed minerals up from its core, forming massive rock deposits –the quarries we use today to mine natural stone like granite and marble. The entire journey took no less than 100 million years!

It was Around 2500 B.C.

It was around 2500 B.C., though, that the Egyptians built the first known natural stone monuments – the Pyramids – from granite and limestone. The famed Great Pyramid or Pyramid of Cheops was built using massive granite blocks. The later Temple of Dendur still glows magnificently in the desert sun, its haunting beauty accentuated by the sandstone it is constructed from.

Other civilizations soon followed

The Greeks are famous for their magnificent Temple of Artemis, the giant marbled pillars of the Parthenon and their pools and baths, lined with marble; the Romans for colossal structures like the elliptical Coliseum with its arches, and tiered seating for 50000 people, and the Pantheon pillared with Egyptian granite. And despite the dark ages, the use of natural stone continued through the medieval period to the Renaissance in buildings like the Notre Dame in France and official residences through most of Europe.

Meanwhile, in India

Meanwhile, in India, artisans garnished temples with intricate stone carvings and fine sculptures that, remarkably, are still intact today. Soon enough, most kings and noblemen built palaces and opulent residences adorned with gossamer marble floors, pillars, ceilings, and decorated them with artifacts and marble inlays on furniture. The Taj Mahal, constructed entirely from marble and encrusted with jewels and gems, was the crowning glory of this period.

Back in the West

The Renaissance and the discovery of improved methods of quarrying brought innovation and novelty to the use of natural stone. Michelangelo fashioned sculptures from marble; ornate, decorative facades gained popularity. Until about a century ago, this style remained in vogue. Then, a shift in decoration styles resulted from changing cultural thought and industrial processes brought in a wave of functional design - it was no longer stylish to be decorative.

New ways of thinking

However, the last decade or so generated new ways of thinking. A new consciousness of the environment – of using eco-friendly materials – brought architects to the drawing board again to find aesthetic, cost-effective, durable and environmentally friendly alternatives to manmade materials. They recognized the popular demand for creating a unique interior, a decorative one yet again, but using materials that could create a homely feel to suit many preferences. One they could use to create the warmth of an old country cottage or a palatial residence, or anything really, from a sleek singles apartment or a stylish family home to a period house or a zany open plan studio. What better place to start than natural stone? This time, significant advances in technology aided them.

Additionally, they found natural stone more adaptive. Available in a large variety of colors and patterns, natural stone is practical and adds to the aesthetic value of every part of a home - from the roof, walls, flooring, furniture, even the garden, and exterior walls. It transforms a four-walled house or apartment into a comfortable home, into warm colors, or a fusion of vibrant ones, infusing warmth and creating a relaxing atmosphere - creating a haven far from the strains and stresses of the modern world.

For these very reasons, more and more people use natural stone today than ever before. After all, it has withstood the ravages of time over the last 4 billion years. Because natural stone is as old as creation, as ancient as time and space as we know it, you cannot help but marvel at the beauty of its creation. Since the Egyptians first used granite and limestone nearly 5000 years ago, the use of natural stone, its quarrying, fabrication, and technical testing have only improved and become more sophisticated over the millennia, making it an affordable, attractive and feasible alternative for most people.


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