Crema Marfil Marble for Flooring and Bespoke pieces
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 called a marble.
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. Is it misleading and should they really be called Crema Marfil?
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 the far east and "French" limestone coming from north Africa. Sometimes, it's the quarries and producers that change the names and sometimes it's the UK importer or distributor. It can be confusing to us in the trade so what must it be like to the end client!
But in reality, what does it matter? Is it important to the end user if the stone is not actually from where the name suggests it comes from? It could be argued that the country of origin is not really relevant and it's the quality of the product that counts.
The main 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 produced in Europe have 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 prove that the stone is fit for purpose. Stone retailers and processors have a legal obligation provide this certificate. Stone produced outside the EU will not have to carry this guarantee of quality.
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 and not that the quality is in any way assured or tested. Their CE logo is also remarkably similar to the European CE logo!
'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 lies within 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 backround 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.
See also our blog on alternatives to Crema Marfil tiles.
Have you seen our web page on Spanish limestone?
Next time: Black and White Marble
Our next blog will cover the topic of using black and white marble and it considers the different options for creating classic and contemporary looks using two complementary stones.
Check our hints and tips guide for choosing stone in your next project by clicking the image below.