written by:
June 5, 2013
We're reporting from Almeria, a province in southwestern Spain where surfaces company Cosentino is headquartered. For the past couple of days, we've gotten a first-hand look at how the company manufactures its products—natural stone and engineered surfaces Silestone and the just-announced Dekton. Here we share the journey of a natural marble slab from mountaintop to manufacturing.
cosentino making marble

Our journey starts millions of years ago, before Spain and Europe as we know it existed. This land used to be submerged deep underwater. Over time, minerals and salts were transformed into sedimentary rock. Travertine, limestone, and marble descend from the same components and represent various phases of calcification. On the top, travertine is the most porous and pitted. Dig a little deeper and you'll find limestone. Deeper still,  is marble, which is the most prized and valuable. It takes about 250 million years to form marble.

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cosentino making marble

Cosentino owns a lease to mine this mountain. Here, you can see the various layers of rock in the quarry. Through excavations, they've gradually excised portions until they hit the marble motherlode. The mine has been producing marble blocks for 40 years and has an expected lifespan of 40 more years. The trade name of the stone is "Blanco Macael," referring to the city from which the stone originates. It's one of the many varieties of natural stone the company distributes.

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cosentino making marble

Workers excavate portions of the mountain to determine where the best-quality stone is; they won't go through the entire laborious process in lower-quality sections. Then, they  remove blocks measuring three meters by five meters and weighing 22,000 kilos each; that's the same as about ten small cars! Here, a block arrives at the factory for processing. (This is a different type of marble than the nearby Blanco Macael.)

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cosentino making marble

A diamond-toothed saw cuts the block into slabs. Catch a Vine video clip of the process here.

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This saw was one of the originals from the factory and dates from the 1950s.

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cosentino making marble

The cut slabs are buffed and polished. See a Vine video clip of the machine in action here.

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cosentino making marble

Then the marble moves to quality control for inspection.

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cosentino making marble

Resin is applied to fill the gaps in pieces with uneven surfaces. Here, workers test various resins on sample tiles.

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cosentino making marble

Since some slabs are more fragile than others, a backing is affixed to prevent cracks and breaking. Here, workers quickly spread the glue.

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Then they stick the mat on the back.

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cosentino making marble

Slabs move about the factory on trolleys (somewhat like the cable cars in Dwell's hometown of San Francisco!).

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cosentino making marble

Some slabs are trimmed into tile (these pieces don't have mats on the back).

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cosentino making marble

A computer analyzes each tile, then sorts it by grade.

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cosentino making marble

After sorting, the pieces are boxed and ready to ship to distributers located around the world.

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cosentino making marble

Our journey starts millions of years ago, before Spain and Europe as we know it existed. This land used to be submerged deep underwater. Over time, minerals and salts were transformed into sedimentary rock. Travertine, limestone, and marble descend from the same components and represent various phases of calcification. On the top, travertine is the most porous and pitted. Dig a little deeper and you'll find limestone. Deeper still,  is marble, which is the most prized and valuable. It takes about 250 million years to form marble.

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