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What are gemstone or semi-precious surfaces?

May 3, 2017

The phrase “Gemstone surface” is a bit of a misnomer. Have you ever been to a restaurant and noticed a bar area awash in the glow of backlit honey-colored stone? Or maybe a used the powder room at a high-end hotel and noticed the glistening crystalline countertops and sinks. Really, nothing says luxury like washing your hands in a in semiprecious stone sink. These stones are often called “gemstone surfaces” or “semi-precious stone surfaces” for their gem-like qualities.
 
Translucent stones with gem-like qualities have been used in buildings for centuries. 13th century churches used alabaster to let in light and illuminate for prayer. Nowadays, people use natural gemstones more and more in private homes as an expression of permanence, luxury and grandeur. There is an emerging elite market in natural stone where gemstone and semi precious surfaces are being used to give a space a real “wow” effect.
 
Most gemstone slabs are produced by cutting, setting and arranging semi precious stones in a mosaic style, binding them using a special epoxy glue and then creating cutaway slabs. Agate, Tiger Eye, Carnelian and other Quartz stone are often produced this way and can be made into stunning surfaces that allow for backlighted bathroom vanities and shower walls that are real show-stoppers.
 
Onyx, jades and alabasters, on the other hand, are a mined from a single large quarry where rock is ground or cut into slabs that can be striking and dramatic. To be lucky enough to find that one continuous piece of stone that will flow across a wall, foyer or bath can be statement enough. The famous German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once grabbed headlines with a villa he designed that had no paintings or decorative items but featured a partially translucent onyx wall that changed appearance as the sun set.

German Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

 
 
Caring for gemstone surfaces:
 
Be sure to work with an architect or stone expert when making a gemstone surface choice. Sometimes beautiful stone can be very soft and or difficult to maintain. For example, if you have backlit onyx or translucent marble, the stone will often be cut thin to allow more light through, which, while gorgeous, limits its durability. At Boston Stone Restoration we can often offer coatings that will help keep your semi-precious stone surfaces beautiful and offer expertise to keep the gleam in your gem.

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