Natural Stone Information - Quartz
Quartz is one of the hardest substances found on earth and perhaps one of the most useful. We not only see it in quartz worktops but jewellery and the lenses for optical instruments. It is also found as part of many other natural stones, including granite.
It is by far the most abundant mineral on Earth, accounting for around 12% for the top crust and occurs in crystal form in its natural state. Crystals can vary from very small, to quite large. In fact, one of the largest quartz crystals ever found was in found in Switzerland and weighed more than 600 lbs.
What is Quartz Made of?
Quartz is formed from Silicon and Oxygen which combine to make Silicon Dioxide. The range of crystals in the Earth’s crust depends largely on how they were formed, at what temperatures and whether they contain impurities. These factors can change the shape and colour of the crystal.
• Quartz can also be found as very minute crystals, such as found in natural stones like granite.
• Quartz crystals can be manufactured on an industrial scale.
• Chalcedony is a type of quartz that forms when impurities combine in layers to produce different colours.
• Quartz is hardwearing and doesn’t dissolve in water – rock materials can be worn away leaving higher concentrations of quartz.
Quartz Has Mystical Qualities
Quartz has been known since ancient times and revered by civilisations such as the Egyptians and Mayans. It has been thought to have very mystical qualities and the Celts called it many names including grian cloch or stone of the sun. It is used today by many so called faith healers.
The Perfect Building Material
It’s as a material for building that quartz has come into its own. It is one of the most durable substances known to man. Crushed quartz, combined with resins and pigments make up your quartz worktops, as hard as natural stone and just as durable.
Quartz (Silica/Silicon Dioxide, SiO2) is the most common mineral on the earth’s surface. It is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of almost every rock type and exists in an impressive range of varieties and colours.
Quartz ranks 7.0 on Moh’s scale of mineral hardness, which is used to measure the scratch-resistance of a material. Only the diamond (at 10), topaz and sapphire (at 9) are harder than quartz. (Granite is ranked 6 on the scale).
Because quartz grows in clusters and does not form huge stone blocks like granite (which contains 40% - 60% quartz), limestone or other types of rock, it is not suitable in its natural state to make into worktops or other large slabs.
The process to convert quartz to a slab/worktop was patented by Breton, an Italian company, and is used by all companies, which manufacture engineered stone. Which means really the only choice that needs to be made is which colour you prefer.
This manufacturing process uses raw quartz crystals ranging in size from coarse grains to the size of rock salt. Once the quartz is ground and selected, the crystals are combined with bonding agents (resin) and colour, then heated and vibro-compacted to form an impenetrable surface.
The resulting slabs are a matrix of 93% quartz and 7% resin binders and pigments, free of fissures and cracks, and impervious to water, moisture, or bacteria.
Industry-wide, all quartz worktops are made with 93 per cent quartz or they cannot claim the hardness, durability, or impermeability of a true quartz surface. The prescribed mixture results in a product that is non-porous, exceedingly durable, and more than twice as strong as granite and less likely to break during fabrication. For those who love the look of granite but are concerned about its drawbacks, quartz may be the answer. Unlike granite, which can be permanently stained by cooking oils and grease, or which can be etched by the acids in such common household products as hairspray and other toiletries, engineered stone is impervious to these hazards.
And while granite is subject to unpredictable variations in colour or pattern between slabs, making matching of sections of a worktop difficult, engineered stone is much more uniform in colour, pattern, and texture, making matching a lot easier. It provides nearly all of the benefits of natural stone but with few of the drawbacks.
Engineered tone is the most durable surface material, combining the hardness and durability of quartz with the exceptional low maintenance qualities of man-made materials (resin).
To the untrained eye, quartz surfaces appear to be natural stone. What makes it different?
Natural rock is variable by nature, colours and patterns may shift and change on a large slab. Surface pits are a mark of granite. Engineered stone on the other hand, displays a "consistent variability" or mottling in colour and texture throughout a quartz countertop. Each slab looks the same, which helps minimize the visible seams that often plague granite countertop installations.
The actual appearance of the quartz surface varies depending on the size and mix of the granules. Smaller, finer crystals give a more uniform appearance, while larger ones provide a more mottled look.
Quartz surfacing is available in colours not found in nature, as the crushed stone is generally mixed with pigment. For example certain brands offer reds, greens and other bold colours. Take advantage, and choose a colour that dazzles while still looking like stone.
In addition to granite, some manufacturers produce engineered stone that looks like marble, travertine, concrete, and other natural stone.
Since they are solid, the colour and natural mottling from the quartz crystals runs throughout the material. Slabs are fabricated into countertops with edge profiles that range from simple bevels to bullnose and Waterfall.
Care and Maintenance
Because it is non-porous, quartz polished surfaces do not need to be sealed (although we do as it gives an extra layer of protection and added shine), as do other stones to prevent staining.
Though the quartz surface can tolerate moderate temperatures for a brief time, it can be damaged by high heat and prolonged exposure to heat. Use a hot pad or trivet when placing a hot pan on it.
Continuous long-term exposure to direct sunlight (UV rays) may result in slight discoloration of Quartz Stone countertops. Most indoor applications will not apply.
Since there is more exposed surface area with honed finishes, metal marks, finger prints and other signs of daily living will show on honed material. Most of these marks can be easily removed with little effort.
Quartz worktops are ideal in kitchens, but are also used as desktops, stairs, flooring and fireplace mantles. The material is easy to keep clean and very durable, so it's an attractive alternative to tile in bathrooms too.
Another advantage is that it's nearly stain-proof as well. This is because it's a nonporous surface. Your coffee, cabernet and olive oil will sit on top of the surface instead of soaking in, ready for the sponge. Because it's nonporous it also doesn't need to be sealed or treated. Many kitchen surfaces like granite, marble and limestone need regular sealing. Quartz is ready to go right from the start, making it maintenance-free.
Its nonporous nature also makes it more difficult for bacteria, mould and mildew to grow, which makes it an ideal choice for the kitchens and bathrooms, in fact quartz has a variety of applications and will enhance the look of any building inside or out.
Quartz worktops can be a stylish complement for any kitchen and being aware of how to maintain them will go a long way to ensuring they last a lifetime or more. Your worktop is made from engineered stone and as such doesn’t need sealing like a natural rock like granite but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care when using it.
Can I Cut on my Quartz Worktops?
Yes you can, but we recommend using a chopping board which is better for the knife you are using and the quartz worktops. Quartz is very scratch resistant but you should try to avoid sharp objects which may damage it over time.
Are my Quartz Worktops Heat Resistant?
Anything under 150 °C shouldn’t have an adverse effect on your quartz worktops but, as with many stone materials, we don’t recommend putting very hot pans on the surface. A sudden temperature change can cause the resin to rise to the surface inside the block, so we suggest using pan rests or trivets to protect the surface.
Also be careful with heavy pots and pans made of cast iron which can cause chips and cracks if thumped down without much care or attention.
Can They be stained?
Your quartz worktops should be largely stain resistant for their lifetime as they are not porous. If you have something dried on the surface then resist the temptation to use an abrasive scouring pad that can take the sheen off the surface.
How to Clean Your Quartz Worktops
As with natural stone, try to use soap like a mild detergent and water, and refrain from using anything abrasive. Use clean water to remove any residue.
Never use strong chemical agents or solvents. Avoid anything like paint stripper, oven cleaner or dishwasher detergent that has a pH over 8.5 which is very alkaline. If you find a difficult stain like dried paint then carefully scrape away as much as you can and use a wet cloth to get rid of the rest.
If your quartz worktops are exposed to anything damaging, make sure you remove it by rinsing with water and then wiping away.
As with all our worktops, when they are installed, our stone masons will answer any questions you like concerning the upkeep and maintenance of your surfaces.