Just about everyone working in the stone business has been asked about the value and benefits of natural stone at one time or another. When your sales people are asked this question, will they have the answer or will they struggle with their response? Coming up with the right stone and its useful application may be one answer, and it starts with basic knowledge and understanding. Whether the project is large or small, materials are often influenced by trade professionals like designers and architects who seek true value and benefit for their clients in their selections. It’s important for trade professionals to explain the facts about stone so they can dispel myths to their clients, while highlighting natural stone’s greatness. It shouldn’t be about choosing between stone and a manmade substitute, but rather choosing the appropriate stone for the application.

For interior projects, stone leads the way in options. Whether it is marble, onyx, travertine, quartzite or slate, a suitable stone exists to enhance any interior surface. It’s often the first choice when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, or as a stone facing around a fireplace where it looks beautiful but also meets fire code requirements for a noncombustible surface. Ornate marbles have been featured in churches and cathedrals for centuries. The elite sought stone for their palaces and villas for its opulence. Once only available to the wealthy, natural stone is now affordable and accessible. Selecting the best stone may seem like a daunting task, but with the help of a skilled stone professional or online tools offered by organizations like the Natural Stone Institute, the process is simplified. 

For exterior projects, the use of natural stone is the superior choice. Iconic buildings and monuments in major cities have always featured natural stone in their designs -- from the limestone and granite cladding on skyscrapers to the stone retaining walls and dimensional granite at our nation’s monuments. With cold harsh winters, hot and humid summers, performance in a building material is essential. Tested over time and proven in the laboratory, dimensional stone sets the standard in performance. In cities, granite watertables skirt buildings to protect them from road salt and abrasion, while natural thin stone veneer protects foundation walls on homes in the suburbs. Granite, limestone and travertine panels clad landmarks and skyscrapers not only to enhance their design, but also to shield them from temperature, wind, rain and snow. Flamed granite pavers and stair treads around the buildings ensure pedestrians of proper footing in wet weather. Millions of years in the making, each stone adding beauty and function while becoming a permanent part of the community’s culture and landscape.

Learning about natural stone is easy and interesting. When visiting trade shows like TISE, Coverings and Marmomac, take time to meet with the quarriers, producers and importers that are exhibiting. Stop at their booths and hear directly from some of the top experts in the stone industry. 

Additional resources to help educate your sales people and customers may be found online. One of the best websites for finding information on natural stone is www.usenaturalstone.org. A collection of articles and images answer the question, “Why Use Natural Stone?” 

Supported by the Natural Stone Institute, other trade associations and industry leaders, this helpful tool offers insight into stone’s intrinsic value and the high standards established in the industry. It offers a useful perspective to all industry professionals, highlighting stone’s tremendous benefit to the consumer and the environment. 

Touring a stone factory is a great way to appreciate how amazing natural stone is.

You don’t have to fly to Carrara or Brazil to see a marble quarry or sawing plant. Some of the most impressive stone operations exist right here in North America. If you’re in the Northeast, make plans to visit Vermont Quarries, to experience their amazing underground operations where the famed Vermont White Danby marble is extracted and processed all year round. 

Or if you’re near Garden City, TX, say hello to Brenda Edwards, owner of Texastone Quarries, the first operation to become certified in the Natural Stone Sustainability Standard (ANSI 373) for both the quarrying and fabrication production. There are others who have earned this coveted distinction, extending this benefit to their customers through the stones they produce.

Natural stone is sustainable. Its production is environmentally responsible, consuming less water and energy than alternative dimensional building products. It has a very small carbon footprint, recycles 90% of its water and very few chemicals used in its production. Additional facts about stone sustainability may be found on the Natural Stone Council’s website: (https://naturalstonecouncil.org/sustainability). The website includes plenty of useful images and information about NSC 373 Certified Quarries in North America and how sustainability brings value and benefit to any project.

No other product offers such a wide range of options and applications. Become more knowledgeable about the stones that interest you and your clients. Think of stone as Mother Earth’s mineral-based building material, each having its own inherent beauty, individual composition and unique physical characteristics. Researching your favorite marble, slate or limestone is a great way to discover your stone’s rich history, find out about the responsible practices in its production and the features that make your natural stone so special. When a real stone is specified, it supports the quarry, factory and shop workers dedicated to their industry. It also helps clear a path for those who are interested in pursuing a career in stone. 

Jonathan Mitnick is president of Mitnick Stone, Inc. and partner at CCS Stone Inc. New Jersey’s only NSI Accredited Fabricator. He is a Natural Stone Institute Director and post Chairman of the NSI Safety Committee. Questions or comments about this article may be sent directly to him at jonathan@ccsstone.com