Quartz slabs are composed of three main ingredients: particles of mineral quartz, resins, and pigments.
We are living in the age of information. In the palms of our hands, we can tap into an enormous realm of facts, opinions, advertisements, and educational materials. However, because information is so easy to access and share, plenty of not-so-great material gets widely circulated, too. Our challenge is to sort fact from fiction, to educate ourselves, and guide designers, architects, and customers through the melee.
The countertop industry is a big one, offering multi-millions of dollars in annual sales in Singapore alone. Naturally, competition is fierce as various companies vie for attention and make bold claims to lure customers. Quartz countertop manufacturers are working hard to influence the marketplace, and they are doing so with big promises and lofty assertions. As with all information, it’s important to pause and reflect on the validity of these statements so that we can make informed choices.
What’s in a name?
Companies that manufacture quartz countertops have been very clever with their naming. The word “quartz” represents one of Earth’s most abundant minerals. One well-known brand of quartz surfaces says that their product is “pure natural quartz.” The phrase admittedly has a nice ring to it. But how accurate is it?
Geologically speaking, a manmade quartz countertop or quartz table Singapore is not pure natural quartz. The only thing that fits that criterion is quartzite, which truly is pure natural quartz. Manufactured quartz surfaces are mostly quartz, but they are not purely quartz. Depending on the brand and the color, manmade quartz surfaces are 70% to 93% quartz sand or aggregate, mixed with polyester resin, ethenylbenzene (also known as styrene), pigments, and other additives.
Quartz Comes From a Mold
Quartz slabs are composed of three main ingredients: particles of mineral quartz, resins, and pigments. The quartz particles can vary in size from about 5 millimeters down to less than half a millimeter. Polyester resin binds the mineral pieces together. In some cases, the resin is mixed uniformly through the slab, and in other cases there are visible areas of resin, depending on the design. The same is true of pigments; some designs are the same color all the way through, while others have ribbons or accents of different hues, which are often meant to imitate the naturally occurring patterns in natural stone.
Manufactured quartz slabs are made by blending the ingredients, then pouring the mixture into a mold. Different manufacturers use different processes, but some combination of vibration, compaction, heat and a vacuum is applied to cure the slabs from a slurry to a solid.
Testing the Hardness of Quartz Slabs
Before we jump into a fact-check on hardness, it’s worth pausing to point out that hardness only relates to a surface’s resistance to being scratched. Hardness has little to do with chipping and nothing to do with staining.
Is quartz surfacing much harder than granite? This is straightforward to verify using metal picks calibrated to different hardness on Mohs scale. In test cases where the sample contained large particles of mineral quartz, the individual quartz grains yielded a hardness of 7. The “matrix” material around the larger particles were generally 6 to 7, with some areas between 5 and 6. Larger pools of resin were between 5 and 6. On colors where the particles are uniform and fine-grained, the hardness fell in the range of 6 to 7.
How does that compare to granite? Mineral quartz has a hardness of 7. Feldspar has a hardness of 6 to 6.5. These two minerals make up somewhere between 100% and 90% of a standard commercial granite. Other typical minerals in granite could include hornblende (hardness 5-6), pyroxene (hardness 5-6), biotite (hardness 2.5-3), and garnet (hardness 6.5-8.5).
These results make sense. Particles of quartz are a hardness of 7, regardless of whether they are in a natural stone or a manmade composite. Polyester filler and binder materials are softer than quartz, which is reflected in the softer values in those areas of the slab.
And therein lies the essential difference between purely natural products versus engineered lookalikes. There can be no doubt that real stone is a product of the Earth, created by geology, God, or whichever combination you prefer. Natural stones are natural, abundant, and fundamental parts of our planet. They bring life and energy into our homes and public spaces and are unquestionably authentic. Amid the confusion wrought by marketing strategies, perhaps the most useful conclusion lies in the age-old adage: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
We believe a blank canvas is something full of possibilities and with unlimited potential. At Greyhammer we celebrate the beauty of natural materials that are crafted into simple, one-of-a-kind shapes and silhouettes.
We source our materials across the globe, select, filter and negotiate with best suppliers to bring our customer the best of best, e.g. Italy / Greece / Spain / Brazil / India Marble, Granite, Onyx, Travertine, Limstone, Quartz, Porcelain or solid wood from Africa and South America.
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