Many people are savvy enough to understand that so-called "quartz" countertops are somehow different from other natural stone countertops. Quartz countertops are more unusual than you realize, though, as you'll see.
What Is a Quartz Countertop?
Quartz countertops are actually a form of engineered stone, made from ground-up particles of stone bound together with space-age plastic resins.
01 of 08
Quartz Countertops Aren't Solid Quartz
Sure, in most quartz countertops there is some quartz present, but saying that quartz countertops are solid quartz is like saying that all cars in an average parking lot are Chevrolets.
Fully 10 percent of the material volume in a quartz countertop isn't stone at all, but rather a polymeric or cement-based binder. And the other 90 percent? Crushed up waste granite, marble, and natural stone or recycled industrial wastes such as ceramic, silica, glass, mirrors, etc. And yes, maybe some actual quartz—sometimes maybe a lot of it. All this rock material mixed together and held together with binders is what gives a so-called quartz countertop the look and feel of stone.
More accurately, a quartz countertop should probably be called engineered stone or compound stone—terms that more accurately describe the way these products are created. The industry, in fact, is increasingly using the term engineered stone to refer to this type of countertop.
Bottom line: quartz countertops may include greater or lesser quantities of actual quartz, but they include no solid quartz extracted from quarries and likely have lots of other materials in them, as well.
02 of 08
All Quartz Countertops Come From One Source
In 1963, the technology of creating engineered stone was developed by the Breton company in northeast Italy, who licensed the process under the trademark Bretonstone®. Over 50 years later, Breton is still alive and kicking. The process consists of blending pulverized natural stone aggregate with a mix of polymers, removing the air, then heating and shaping the material into slabs that have the hardness and appearance of natural stone.
Bretonstone technology has been licensed to more than 50 companies around the world, including such famous names as Silestone, Cambria, and Caesarstone. While these manufacturers absolutely do add their own flair and nuances to their engineered stone countertops, they are still working off of that original brevetto, or patent, from Breton. Some forms of quartz countertops now include fragments of mirrors and other glass, brass metal filings, and various mixtures of granite and marble. Considerable effort goes into creating mixtures that produce unique looks.
03 of 08
The Cheese Connection
Cambria quartz countertops—perhaps you've heard of them? Cambria represents a huge chunk of the U.S. market for quartz countertops, yet few people know one bit of interesting trivia about this American-owned company: The company also makes cheese.
The Davis family business, now based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, began in the 1930s as a dairy business that gradually expanded into an association of several companies, St. Peter Creamery, Le Sueur Cheese Company, and Nicollet Food Products. It was not until 2000 that the Davis family began its entry into the engineered stone business by purchasing quartz processing equipment.
Even today, the Davis family businesses supply about one-third of a billion pounds of cheese each year to Kraft Foods.
04 of 08
The Term Bretonstone Is Not Derived from French
The trade name Bretonstone is not related to the word Breton, a term referring to the people of the Brittany region of France. Bretonstone was actually developed more than 900 miles away from Brittany, in Castello di Godego, itself located about 20 miles from Venice, Italy.
The Breton in the word Bretonstone is a portmanteau—a blended word comprised of bre (for brevetti, roughly meaning "patents") and ton (for the surname of founder Marcello Toncelli).Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Quartz Countertops Are Green
Fiberboard as a building material is much maligned, but you can say this about it: No tree was ever cut down for the express purpose of making fiberboard. The same holds true of engineered stone countertops. The 90 percent of stone-like materials that form the base of quartz countertops are all waste by-products of other quarrying or manufacturing processes. No natural stone is quarried solely for use in quartz countertops.
Even the resins that comprise the remaining 10 percent of a quartz countertop have become more natural and less synthetic. Breton's trademarked word for this ingredient is Biolenic Resins, referring to a combination of artificial and organic resins, the latter derived from non-food vegetable oils.
06 of 08
You Often Walk on Quartz
Homeowners think of quartz in terms of kitchen or bathroom counters. But the majority of quartz is slabbed out in massive sizes for things like shopping malls, airports, and Prada floors. No doubt you have walked on quartz countertop material and not even known it.
Quartz has come full circle because the very first material that inventor Marcello Toncelli developed were hand-poured mini slabs of about 12 x 20 inches, cut down and used for floor tiles. Countertop applications did not come until years later. Indeed, even in the mid-1970s, slabs only measured about 50 inches long—hardly a size one could call countertop-worthy.
07 of 08
Quartz No Longer Competes With Granite
For years, quartz tried to play the natural stone game. It sought to develop a reputation as a more durable, less porous, and more easily fabricated version of slab granite.
While granite-look quartz materials still ply the market in huge numbers, quartz that looks like nothing else is an increasingly popular segment. One example is Caesarstone. As if modern wasn't a current-enough style category for consumers, Caesarstone now has an ultra-modern category with offerings such as Apple Martini, Blizzard, and Crocodile.
08 of 08
More Quartz Means Lower Granite Prices
According to a report from the Freedonia Group, quartz countertops are continuing to take over granite's market share. Homeowners who in years past might have chosen slab granite are increasingly choosing quartz.
But this has one fortunate side-effect for anyone who wants to install granite: lower prices due to lesser demand. Freedonia notes that "granite prices declined over the last decade, making the material more widely available."