An experienced producer of Breccia Pernice
May 1, 2010
While the beginning of Essegi Marmi dates back to 1963, the ownership’s family history in the stone industry can be traced to the 1600s. Specializing in the quarrying and production of Breccia Pernice, Essegi Marmi is located in the Volargne stoneworking region of Northern Italy. The company has supplied its unique material to high-profile projects around the world such as Trump Tower in New York City.
Breccia Pernice is extracted from the same mountain that contains the Rosso Verona and Pietra della Lessina quarries, according to Paolo Savoia of Essegi Marmi, adding that the higher elevations of the mountain are where Breccia Pernice is found. “Well-maintained roadways facilitate travel,” he said. “Blocks are transported to the factory on flatbed trucks.”
Savoia went on to explain that the translation for the Italian word Breccia is “fragmented rock.” Breccia Pernice is composed of fragments of red, pink and white limestone, and it is alternately referred to as a marble or a limestone. “In a sense, it is a new material because it was discovered in the early 19th century,” he said. “It is new compared to Rosso Verona. “It’s similar to the red French limestone that was used a lot for churches at the time. It competed with that.”
Breccia Pernice is offered in three variations, which include Chiara, Medio and Classico. While the Classico variety is very red in color, the Medio - or “Medium” - variety consists more of shades of pink. Chiara, which means “clear” in Italian, is light in color. “The geological structure is always the same - only the color is different,” said Savoia. “The only difference is the aesthetic value of the material.”
The material consists of different-sized fragments - both small and large. “They are not round,” said Savoia. “They are irregular - usually angular.” And due to Breccia Pernice’s low resistance to the freeze/thaw cycle, it is better suited for interior applications, according to Savoia.
The quarry formation
The Breccia Pernice quarries developed along a large fault in the mountain known as the “tectonic zone,” according to Dott. Geol. Annapaola Gradizzi, an Italian geologist. “When you move from the fault, which is the heart of the quarry, the material gets lighter in color,” she said.
At the time of Stone World’s visit, Essegi Marmi was operating three Breccia Pernice quarries. These quarries sit 3,000 feet above sea level, and they were developed in “trenches” along the tectonic zone, which is 300 meters deep. “It is more difficult to quarry this material because you have to dig a trench,” said Gradizzi. “It is a really interesting material though because of its fragmentation.”
During Stone World’s trip to Essegi Marmi’s Breccia Pernice quarries, the company was not producing the light-colored variety of the stone because it was deep inside the mountain. On average, a typical quarry face consists of 20 meters of Classico, 50 meters of Medio and 20 meters of Chiaro.
To extract the Breccia Pernice from the quarry, the company uses a “soft blast” technique. A hole is first made with a drilling rig and then a soft blast is put inside the hole. The rest of the cuts are made with a diamond wire saw.
The first cut is made from the bed up to the first bench, according to Gradizzi. Next, two lateral cuts are made. The final step includes making three main cuts to produce three to four large blocks. “The spacing of the joint is really big, so they can produce big blocks,” said the geologist.
In total, a diamond wire saw can cut a block in about one hour. The large blocks are then cut into smaller blocks that are transported to the production facility. On average, the blocks measure between 2 and 2 ½ meters.
Essegi Marmi operates its quarries year round. Typically, there are four to five workers on site. Once a quarry is no longer used for extraction, some are re-filled with waste and used for agriculture, including vineyards.