Big-vein marble-Look Quartz Worktops – how we got to where we are
Here at the start of 2022, there is no doubt that the biggest success story in kitchen worktops over recent years has been marble-look quartz. I haven’t done all the research, but I am pretty sure that we have written and blogged more about these materials than about anything else. The technology to create these stones has come on by leaps and bounds over the years, and is still moving fast.
Early marble-look quartz was always a matter of soft mottled marbles. Starting with materials like Silestone Lagoon and Lyra, we saw a steady improvement in realism. I remember the excitement when we first saw Caesarstone’s London Grey – it took five different dyes to create the sense of translucent, soft-grey murkiness of that stunning quartz. But it was a soft mottle – not a long-veined material.
Caesarstone London Grey
The first picture I posted of Silestone Eternal Calacatta Gold – back in May 2017
A full-slab-length island in Silestone Eternal Calacatta Gold
The real breakthrough in big/long vein (“Calacatta”) look quartz probably came from Cambria and Silestone, though others were simultaneously working along the same lines. We first installed Cambria Brittanicca in late 2016, and I guess we became aware of Silestone’s Eternal Range in the following spring. In fact, I saw some of the materials, still unnamed and top secret at the Silestone factory in Spain in February 2017. Here, for the first time, were the kind of products which we knew were going to change the shape of the market for quartz. They had in common:
- Instead of mottles, very pure, smooth, solid backgrounds in whites and greys (and subsequently, blacks)
- Large (wide and long) veins of varying degrees of boldness
- Complexity within the vein – these aren’t just solid veins, they have stuff going on in them. Just as the seams in real marble can fracture and fill with material more than once, creating layers in the vein, so these products have a realistic variety of tione and colour in the vein.
The next step in the development of any commodity is always the multiplication of suppliers and competition on price. Since the Big Names came out with their large-veined products, there has been a profusion of Me-Toos from lesser-known suppliers all over the world. The most economical materials with the big vein look are now not only far cheaper than the originals they have copied, but actually also very good. As I wriote, I have the last quotation I did still open on my desktop. It happened to be for a large-veined, gold-tinged white quartz. The gap between the Big Brand and the Me Too was the difference between £10k and £7k. You have to like something an awful lot to fork out an extra £3000!
Classic Quartz Torrano Gold
Big-vein marble-look Quartz Worktops – Why don’t you stock them, then?
If big-veined marble-look quartz is such a dominant material in the kitchen worktops market, why don’t we stock it?
It’s a fair question. You could argue that we do indeed stock some long-veined materials – both our in-stock Cimstone Cortina and Culliford’s Misty Carrara have continuous veins travelling for a distance across the slab. But neither of them is a “big vein” quartz in the way these other products are – and they are far easier to work with: see the section on vein-matching, below.
A slab of Cimstone’s Calacatta Nuvo on the arrival rack of our quartz worktops warehouse
Silestone Ethereal Noctis
Despite the diversification and resultant price-competition that has occurred in this field, none of these materials are exactly cheap. Even the cheapest of them is high end – by way of comparison, the classic Blue Pearl granite, quarried only in Norway and a superb, hard-wearing, acid-rain proof stone used for everything from building cladding to gravestones to worktops is more economical than ANY of the stones I have mentioned. That gives some perspective on what is involved here. We tend to stock relatively economical materials which we are cionfident that we will sell in some quantity. Committing to a large stock purchase of any one large-vein quartz is a big choice to make.
The sheer variety and range of chioice now available in big-veined marble-look quartz makes stocking any one stone a real difficulty. Many of our customers who are looking at this kind of product have very clear ideas of what they are looking for… “the background must be as white as possible”… “only grey, no gold in the vein”… “I wish the veins were a bit thinner”… and so on. Given the plethora of materials on offer, we are reluctant to tie ourselves down, preferring to offer a range and look for the best deals we can at any given time.
Cindy Crawford looks less than fully comfortable on Silestone Eternal Noir
Vein-matching in a recent installation of Cambria Portrush. Whenever a mitred downstand (as here) needs to come from a second slab, matching will always be approximate. Look carefully for the veins that run out… but see how the overall effect is pleasing.
This is the real challenge. Because of their big, very obvious veins, set against plain backgrounds, these stones need careful thought before installation. They do not look good if installed with horrible mismatches of veins. (If you have a strong stomach and want to see an example, look here – NOT our work!)
To match veins well, always requires MORE material than in a non-veined stone – and produces more offcuts. The alternative is to discard vein-matching at joins, and we just aren’t prepared to do that. We have a reputation as one of the most careful firms when it comes to our vein-matching, and we can’t just chuck that away for economy – even if it means losing some customers.
Incidentally, this is where our two, in-stock, long-veined quartzes do work. Cortina has very fine veins, and a lot of randomness, with veins sometimes running out to nothing. Misty Carrara doesn’t have a plain background – it has enough going on to make slight mis-matches far more forgiveable.
(For more on vein-matching, please see our full article.)
4 The Offcut Market
Our on-going Bin End Sale provides a steady stream of customers with shelves, hearths and vanity tops. We are glad to be able to sell offcuts at a great price and give them a new life as beautiful stone furnishings in someone’s home. The most frequent use for marble-look quartz is as a vanity top – but the big-veined materials are not popular for this purpose. A huge, bold vein which makes a great statement on a 2.5×1.2m island looks odd and off-putting on a little sink top in a downstairs cloakroom. So the very materials which generate larger numbers of offcuts (because of point 3) are also harder to sell as offcuts. This too puts us off stocking them.
Image of a few materials that we had as offcuts – there is no disguising the boldness of that Brittanicca!
So there you have it…
There is so much variety of material and of customer, and the costs and challenges in installing these materials are so great, that we don’t stock them. Instead, we have found it best to listen to each customer on their own terms. What are YOU looking for in your kitchen? Together we can work towards finding the right stone for you. If that is a big-veined, marble-look quartz, that’s great. We will work with you to find the most cost-effective way to the look you want. This isn’t one size fits all – it is personal service. We have found that kind of personal attention leads to happy customers
Caesarstone Calacatta Nuvo
We are Affordable Granite, the leading granite and quartz worktop supplier in Surrey, Sussex and across the South East. We work in a variety of stones, but have become especially skilled at working in large-vein materials, where the quality of installation is paramount. If you are serious about putting a Calacatta-type material into your kitchen, then you will want to talk to us. We want to be the best in the business for customer service and advice as well as the installation itself. Call us for a quotation on 01293 863992 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Images from Affordable Granite or from the quartz manufacturers mentioned.