At some point, everyone in the stone business has found themselves looking at a beautiful slab in their shop and wondering where it could have come from and how it ended up there. The general areas of the world are easy: Brazil, Italy, China or India supply most of the stone that we work with. The real fun starts when you dig a bit deeper. In this article, we’ll follow how Brothers in Granite, a producer and exporter of natural stone from Brazil, discovers quarries and stone from across their country.
The richness of Brazil
Brazil has the greatest diversity of natural stone types and colors in the world and is home to over 1,500 active quarries. The state of Espirito Santo itself, where Brothers is headquartered, is the epicenter of the stone trade and has some of the largest reserves of granite and marble in the country.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy for “Quarry Hunters” to find their prey. The vastness of the country and the rural nature of these quarries means limited roads and access routes. Even a short drive might be several hours over dangerous terrain and sometimes a helicopter is the only way in! In the end, every adventure has its own risks and the ultimate goal is worth the effort.
Speaking broadly, the south of Espirito Santo, and in particular the city of Cachoeiro, home to the quarries of the most popular Brazilian marbles. This is where you’ll find popular stones such as Supreme White, Aurelius White, Aspen White, Ice Crystal and White Cloud. Most of these stones are actually dolomite, a relative of marble with much greater durability. A more familiar example of this type of stone is Super White. These dolomites are hard enough that many people still confuse them for granites or quartzites.
Travelling north in Espirito Santo is where you’ll find the classic granites that form the backbone of Brazilian exporters and American fabricators alike. Giallo Ornamental, New Venetian Gold, Ornamental White and New Caledonia are some of the classic colors of this region. Production here is much more decentralized than in the south and some of these quarries are very remote.
A vast hunting ground
Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country by area, at over 3.2 million square miles. To cover these vast distances quickly (and sometimes because there’s no other option) helicopter travel is often the best solution to reach quarries and make purchases. Valle Nevado, a very popular granite recently, is one of the quarries commonly flown into, along with White Ice, Everest White, Delicatus and Alpine.
Despite all this, it can be very difficult to access quarries during certain times of the year. Helicopters are sometimes impossible to arrange and then the only option is to make a drive in rough weather when heavy rains can turn roads into rivers in the blink of an eye.
Taj Mahal — The long journey
Sometimes even a helicopter isn’t enough. Located over 1,300 miles away from Espirito Santo in the state of Ceara, the quarry for the famous quartzite Taj Mahal requires a six-hour flight and then a further five hours by car. Countless other quarries are spread across this continent-sized country. Quarry hunters need to keep alert for the colors and characteristics of the stone the market demands and which parts of the country can supply that stone.
Now that you know a bit more about the effort it takes to bring you these exotic stones, you can share it with your customers so that they can appreciate the unique journey of these raw materials from the ground to their kitchen. Every piece of natural stone is unique with millions of years of history to tell and adventure to be found!
Travel to Brazil
If you’re interested in getting to know the quarries of Espirito Santo for yourself, Brothers in Granite offers a “Travel to Brazil” program. As our guest, we’ll show you some of the quarries mentioned above, in particular the marbles of Cachoeiro. We’ll show you our entire production process and let you select materials for your own business directly from the source. Best of all, since we are in Brazil, there is plenty of time to enjoy the sun and the beaches and to sample our local cuisine. This program is open year-round.
BROTHERS RESPONDS TO COVID-19
SW: How has the pandemic affected Brothers in Granite so far?
Brothers: As to our situation, we have customers asking us every day if we’re working down here -- the answer is yes! We’re still receiving new blocks into our factory. We’re still running our automated polishing lines. We’re still uploading fresh bundles onto our website. We’re still here! We had to adjust our routines to keep our workers safe, to be sure. We are taking greater care with hygiene and socially distancing ourselves. I’m sure everyone will be making these same adjustments to survive the following few months.
That said, we think our business model has some advantages for our customers in times like these, as we’re set up to run our entire business through the internet. People can view our stock, place an order and pay us without ever leaving their office.
How have your customers been handling the situation?
Brothers: Brothers has customers spread all over the U.S. and it’s become clear to us that some areas are more affected than others. Some are still placing orders and others have shut their shops completely. We feel that everyone will be taking things slow until the situation stabilizes and we feel there will be a great opportunity for businesses ready to respond once demand picks up. This is important because a container or truck from Brazil takes about 45 days to arrive, so even though it seems counterintuitive, ordering soon might be a good idea.
What is Brothers doing to help its customers?
Brothers: We’re inviting customers to spend their downtime visiting our website. We want them to browse our inventory and make mock orders and get shipping quotes. We want to hear what materials they want us to stock and what we can do to help them in the following weeks and months. It’s the perfect time for discussions like this.
How has the pandemic affected your “Travel to Brazil” program?
Brothers: Before the crisis hit, we had over 30 companies contacting us about 2020 dates. We still invite anyone who is interested to send an email and we can begin coordinating travel and picking the best dates as soon as the situation normalizes.
Current Coronavirus precautions have restricted travel, but we encourage you to reach out to us at email@example.com to begin discussions about travel once the situation normalizes.