Quartz countertops are made by man, but are not synthetic since they are chiefly particles of natural quartz aggregate held together and colored with seven percent or less of other substances. Also called engineered quartz, the countertop slab is actually made of this mixture which is pressed into slabs, which are hardened by baking and cooling.
Quartz is one of the most common minerals in the earth’s surface. Hundreds of quartz mines are scattered over every continent on earth. Most imported quartz comes from Brazil, but the richest quartz mines in the USA are in Arkansas in the Ouachita Mountains “quartz belt” extending into Oklahoma. Heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes, and in some cases explosives, are used to expose pockets of quartz crystals, but once the pocket is exposed, the crystals are either loose and can be picked up by hand, or can be dug up with hand tools such as pickaxes and shovels, or quarried.
Grinding the Crystals
The clear, colorless, transparent but hard, sharp-edged pure quartz crystals are then ground into smaller, uniform pieces and particles. These can be as fine as sand or grainy or coarse like gravel. The finer the particles, the more uniform the color of the slab will result. The larger the crystals, the more depth and sparkle the finished surface will have. Sometimes faceted crystals of quartz in the form of semiprecious stones – such as tiger-eye, hematite, or rose quartz – which are naturally colored by impurities, are mixed in or used instead of the pure quartz crystals.
Mixing in the Filler
A small amount of resins for binding, mixed with natural pigments in the required color are mixed, sometimes with other materials such as recycled mirror, glass, or small flecks of precious metals, and then poured into the quartz particle aggregate. The amount of the mixture added to the quartz particles is so small that the resulting material is still 97% pure quartz.
Patterns and Designs
Patterns such as veining can then be made in the quartz mixture by creating small spaces in it. Then, a vacuum is used to force a second, different mixture of binding and coloring agents, and if desired, quartz particles, into the spaces. This is a patented process used by Caesarstone.
Forming the Slab
The quartz substance is then pressed into a slab of the desired thickness. The edges can be formed straight, rounded, or beveled in the pressing of the slab. It is then cured in an oven. After the slab cools and hardens, it is almost ready for installation. No polishing or finishing is necessary because the quartz is naturally glossy and shiny. If a matte finish is desired, the surface is honed. Another texture like leather can also be produced on the surface.
Quartz Countertop Installation
After the slab of the desired color, texture, size and thickness is formed, any necessary holes for sinks, faucets, and stove tops are cut into the slab to the customer’s specifications. A certified installer then delivers the resulting quartz countertop to the worksite and glues it on the counter cabinets. After installation of the faucets and other fixtures, the new engineered quartz countertop is ready for use.
“Cambria – Natural Quartz Countertops.” <em>Cambria – Natural Quartz Countertops.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <http://www.cambriausa.com/learn_faq.cfm#consumer2>.
“Process to Create Decorative Patterns in Engineered Stone.” <em>Internet FAQ Archives.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2010. <www.faqs.org/patents/app/20080296795 >.
” Quartz Mining – Encyclopedia of Arkansas.”<em> The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1173>.
“Quartz: Quartz mineral information and data..” <em>Mineralogy Database – Mineral Collecting, Localities, Mineral Photos and Data.</em> N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <http://www.mindat.org/min-3337.html>.
“Silestone Quartz :: A Cleaner Safer Countertop.” <em>Silestone Quartz :: A Cleaner Safer Countertop.<em> N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <http://www.silestoneusa.com/journey/quartzology.cfm>.