In the U.S. stone industry, one of the largest growth markets has clearly been granite slab sales. With the growing popularity of granite kitchen countertops for residential applications, U.S. companies are importing granite slabs at an ever-increasing rate, using colorful varieties from countries like Brazil, India and China. In this issue's "Focus on Indian Stone," we see several examples of this, including homes that are using granite in both dark and light tones. Marble slabs have also seen some success for this sector, particularly with the advanced maintenance products and sealers on the market today.

At the same time, the popularity of neutral, beige-toned materials such as Mexican travertine, Jerusalem Stone and Turkish marble (to name a few) have also continued to enjoy popularity in the U.S. marketplace. Like the granite slabs, these materials are playing a key role for residences as well as commercial projects.

So with this in mind, I sometimes forget how exquisite a design can look when it is executed in sandstone. The tone of this material consistently conveys a casual, relaxed feel, while also providing a feel of permanence and elegance that can only come from natural stone.

The cover story in this issue of Stone World features the new Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California at Davis (page 56). The exterior and interior of this building feature sandstone from India as a signature design element. Jade White/Gwalior Yellow sandstone, quarried by Tab India Inc. and fabricated in Jaipur, India, and supplied by the company's U.S. office, Amsum & Ash of Minneapolis, MN, is slightly softer than the other varieties of sandstones available from India, making it an easy material to work with, according to its supplier. With a rich beige hue, the stone subtly reflects the school's agriculture roots and also blends with the surrounding wine country.

"The stone was carefully selected to fulfill those goals of literally relating to the land," said Project Designer Stan Boles of BOORA Architects in Portland, OR. "We were evaluating all kinds of stone, and drawn to the sandstone for the richness of color. It literally related to the color of the land."

And while the stone for the Mondavi center came from India, we also have reserves of high-quality natural stone right here in the U.S. In fact, there are quarries of the stone geographically spread out throughout the country. The subject of this issue's "Re-Emerging U.S. Stone Industry" feature is Delta Stone Products, which is backed by an affiliated quarry (Mountain Valley Stone), a stonemasonry business (R.J. Enterprises) and two fabrication shops (page 34). With modern equipment in place in the quarries and fabricating facilities, Delta Stone Products offers a broad range of stone varieties and products. The firm has already supplied a number of prominent residential and commercial projects within Utah, and it is looking to expand their focus to a nationwide level.

And while materials such as granite, marble, travertine, limestone and slate will never lose their stature within the U.S. market, the growth of our industry will no doubt allow for more sandstone use as well.