Crema Marfil "Marble"
A very well-known "marble", Crema Marfil, is often seen in UK tile outlets. Technically speaking, however, it is not a marble at all but is in fact a limestone. However, it is widely labelled as a marble because it can be polished to a high shine.
The cream background with cinnamon coloured veining makes it a popular choice all round the house as flooring tiles and as bespoke pieces for vanity tops, staircases and fireplaces.
However, it is not always what it seems. Real Crema Marfil limestone, (not marble) is quarried in Spain, near Alicante. Many of the cream or beige coloured marbles that are sold as cheap Crema Marfil actually originate from somewhere other than Spain, often from Turkey, China or elsewhere outside the European Union.
I have just seen some samples that were described on the supplier's web site as the "world renowned Crema Marfil" when, in reality, it was quarried in the Burdur region of Turkey.
It is not just the Crema Marfil look-alikes that are prone to being re-labelled. The same applies to many of the world's better known marbles and limestones. There are, apparently, occurrences of the great Italian marbles, such as "Carrara" and "Calacatta", being exported from Turkey and the far east and we even see some "French" limestone coming from north Africa. "Dijon Limestone", frequently seen in UK high street stone tile retailers, is actually Sinai Pearl limestone from Egypt and not from France, in spite of it being called Dijon Limestone. There are many other examples of misleading names being applied to natural stone.
It is often the importer or distributor that changes the names in order to make the product appear more desirable or to hide the true origin of the stone. Whatever the reason, in my view, it is dishonest and unethical.
It is hard to know who to trust. Make sure you check that you are getting what you are actually paying for. Don't be misled by the name.
In reality, does it matter? Is it important to the end user if the stone is not actually from where the name implies? Personally, I think it is important. Nowadays, many people base their buying decisions on the environmental credentials of the product. How can anyone assess this properly if the source of the product is disguised?
Also, from a functional point of view, the question to ask is, "How do you know that the marble or limestone tiles are fit for purpose?" From the 1st July 2013, all natural stone tiles put onto the market in Europe have had to be certified with a "CE" mark (see photo). The information provided with the certificate must by law specify the exact location of origin and show various test results that can then be interpreted to determine if the stone is actually fit for purpose. Stone retailers and processors have a legal obligation to provide this certificate. Stone produced and used outside the EU does not have to carry this guarantee of quality.
Anyone supplying or specifying stone tiles for the EU or UK market without a CE certificate is breaking the law. This still applies after Brexit.
Just to confuse things further still, the Chinese introduced their own CE mark - it stands for "China Export" - meaning simply that the product originated in China. It does not mean that the quality is in any way assured or tested. Their CE logo is also remarkably similar to the European CE logo. So beware! This does not comply with EU or UK law.
'First Grade' Crema Marfil tiles
Many resellers offer "first grade" so why is it that some "first grades" look better than others?
Let's assume that a marble or limestone labelled as first grade really is the best quality output from the particular quarry. However, the rock that is dug out of some quarries is simply a better quality raw material than the rock that is dug from other quarries. Therefore, it makes sense that the best material that comes from one hole in the ground may be better or worse than the best material from a different hole in the ground.
The usual classification is that higher grade Crema Marfil has a cleaner, paler background with consistent colouring and less veining whereas a lower grade Crema Marfil may have more veining with a greater degree of shading in the background colour. The result is that lower grade Crema Marfil tiles can look more like "patchwork" when laid. Heavier veining can also lead to more breakages during the cutting and installation process.
The Spanish limestone quarry that we use grades their marble (and their limestone) very carefully and offers the following grades:-
- Select Grade: highest grade with a uniform, pale coloured background and very little veining. The quarry reserves this classification for the very best blocks and this is seldom available in large quantities.
- High Standard Grade: clean, uniform background with little veining. Nice solid marble with some character.
- Standard Grade: Some veining with slight variation in background colour.
- Commercial Grade: Some variation in background colour and variable veining. (See adjacent photo of crates of tiles for an example from a recent project).
- Classico: heavily veined, often with fissures in the surface and with varied shading background colour.
As ever, when sourcing natural stone for your project, make sure that you see enough samples to understand the degree of variation that is likely to come with your delivery. Lower grade (cheaper) Crema Marfil tiles will be more variable than the higher grades and you need to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Have you seen our web page on Spanish limestone?
Check our hints and tips guide for choosing stone in your next project by clicking the image below.
For more information on ethical sourcing of stone.
Thanks for reading.
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