The glossary of natural stone

Here’s a brief overview of the terms widely used in the – sometimes geeky – world of natural stone. I thought it might be of help!

Antique
A broad term that refers to a variety of ageing/distressing techniques to achieve a “worn out” look to the stone. The grade of the antique finish varies depending on the stone, the country of origin and the factory.

Book-matching
The practice of matching two or more stone slabs so that two adjoining surfaces mirror each other, creating the impression of an opened book (that is where the name comes from).

Brushed
A stone finish consisting of a slight texture to the surface, achieving a subtly softened look. The grade of brushing and the edge finish can differ depending on the stone and the factory’s recommendation.

Calibrated
Referring to tiles that are of a nominally uniform thickness.

Cobble
A smaller stone of greater thickness, which is typically used externally.

Cross-cut
A cutting technique for stone that indicates that the blocks are cut with the face of the slab positioned at right-angles to the predominant course of the veining. Only certain stone can be cut using this technique. Examples include Wellington limestone and Travertino Classico.

Fabrication
The process of creating bespoke stonework – e.g. worktops, vanity tops, bath surrounds, shower trays, fireplaces, stair treads and risers, etc. – from larger stone slabs.

Filled
This term is related primarily to stone whose surface is characterised by pits and holes – e.g. Travertine and Basaltina.  These holes are typically filled at the source with a resin in a similar colour of the stone.  Once filled, the stone is worked to create a uniform and consistent finish throughout.  Not each and every pit/hole will be completely filled; even pre-filled tiles may require some additional filling, by grout, during the fixing process. On-going resin filler may be required as part of your maintenance regime to extend the longevity of the stone.

Fissure
A thin line of mineral veining that normally contrasts with the background colour of the stone. Not to be mistaken for a crack in the stone.

Flag
Generally used to refer to a large stone tile, of a greater thickness, which can be used both internally and externally.

Flamed
A finish obtained by searing the surface of the stone with high temperature flames. Typically applied to granite, this technique gives a textured surface as the various component crystals are affected by the heat. Once flamed, the stone can also be brushed for a more subtle look and feel.

Flemish bond
A mix of square and rectangle tiles that are laid in courses and alternated to achieve a more random effect.

Fossils
Fossils are remnants of past animals or plants. Generally found in limestone, marble and sandstone, fossils vary in form and size.

Honed
A smooth non-polished finish to the face of the stone. Edges are either straight (flooring and contemporary wall cladding) or beveled (wall cladding). The grade of honing varies upon the stone, the country of origin and the factory.

Minerals
Minerals are non-living solids that are found in nature and may be sensitive to prolonged exposure to moisture. Rock is form of one, two or more minerals. Quartz and calcite are two of the minerals most commonly found in stone.

Mitred edge (or mitered edge)
A clean-edged detail created when two stone surfaces meet at a 90° angle, obtained by bevelling each of two parts at a 45° angle to form a corner. The result is an almost-invisible joint line.  We at paolo.interiors pride ourselves for delivering a solid stone effect, by cutting and gluing back together two pieces of stone from the same slab and next to each other, so that the veins follow through, giving the impression of a solid stone.

Nominal
A small variation from declared sizes and thicknesses, which occurs due to production methods used and the density of the stone itself (+/-1mm is considered acceptable by industry standards). This variation should always be expected and can be more significant with larger format tiles.

Opus
A repeating modular pattern made up of different tile sizes in order to create a random effect to the floor.

Polished
A gloss finish applied to the surface of stone.

Random length
A laying format for tiles, where the width of the stone is fixed (i.e. 300 or 400mm) and the lengths of the tiles vary randomly with a mix of a different lengths.

Riven
A naturally cleft surface obtained by splitting blocks of stone along natural laminations, usually amongst slate, sandstone and – occasionally – limestone.

Sealing
The application of a treating product (sealant or sealer) to natural stone surfaces to prevent staining and corrosion. On darker stone, sealers can have a colour intensifying effect.

Set lengths
A laying format where tiles are laid in courses of the same width but the sizes alternate to give a more random appearance.

Slab
A large piece of stone that can be fabricated into worktops, vanity tops, bath surrounds, etc. Slabs are obtained by cutting blocks of stone.

Splitface
Hand finish that gives a highly textured and tactile surface. Often used as a feature wall, split face surfaces are available for a variety of different material, mainly limestone and soft stone. This technique is also applied to external surfaces.

Tumbled
A technique of ageing stone tiles consisting of creating  a rounded, antique edge finish. On certain stone types, this process may also leave the surface more open and slightly textured.

Uncalibrated
These materials vary in thickness both between tiles and across individual tiles.

Unfilled
This term is related primarily to stone whose surface is characterised by pits and holes – e.g. Travertine and Basaltina. An unfilled finish leaves these holes open. Unfilled stone will need to be ‘slurry grouted’ across the surface so that the holes are filled. Small holes can sometimes be found in limestone, marble and basalt, which can be left unfilled or filled with grout, depending on preference.

Veining
The occurrence of irregular lines of minerals found in stone, most typically marble, although it can be present in all natural stone.

Vein-cut
A cutting technique that refers to when the stone is cut so that the surface runs parallel to the veins. These striations offer an almost geometrically linear appearance.

If you have any question or want to find out more about this fascinating materials, contact us now!

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With over 10 years of experience within the industry, Paolo is an expert tile and stone consultant. Driven by the passion of what is aesthetically pleasant and at the same time practical in everyday life, Paolo has a strong voice within the marketplace and he is not afraid to use it.