You already know about the benefits of quartz surfacing: scratch-resistance, high-gloss finish, nonporous, lots of colors, less brittle than natural stone. But, did you know that the idea of using quartz as a filler material came about only as a twist of fate? And did you know that the company which came up with the idea of quartz surfacing has upped the ante once more with a new collection of patterns that feature semiprecious stones?
Did you know that company was Caesarstone?
Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the ancient city of Caesarea was founded by King Herod between 22 and 10 B.C. and served as the main port and administrative capital of that corner of the Roman empire. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed, where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, and where the great Jewish revolts began in 66 and 132 A.D. Eventually, in the fourth century, the city converted from paganism to Christianity and became a major center for Christian Romans.
In the seventh century, much reduced in size and population but still a prosperous agricultural center, the city came under Muslim rule during the Islamic conquest of the Holy Land. Christian Crusaders occupied the town between 1101and 1265, after which it was re-captured by the Muslims. Mamluk, sultan of Egypt, then ordered Caesarea demolished to prevent it from ever again becoming an entry point for Western invaders.
In 1940 a group of European Jews established a kibbutz near the site of ancient Caesarea, and named it Sdot-Yam, meaning Fields-of-the-Sea. Founded as one of some 270 cooperatives (kibbutz is Hebrew for "communal settlement") to reclaim desolate and neglected land for resettlement, Sdot Yam began life as an agricultural enterprise.
In the 1980's, the commune sought to diversify its economic base by building a manufacturing plant for the production of interior wall cladding, primarily for sale in United States. Using money obtained from an Israeli government-backed loan, the kibbutz purchased the necessary production equipment from Breton S.A., and constructed a state-of-the-art facility to house it in. There were the usual start-up issues associated with any new enterprise, but soon the plant was fully operational producing limestone aggregate panels. Satisfied it was producing top quality material, the kibbutz sent a man to the U. S. to sell the new product.
"He came here and stayed about a month," explains Bob Paradiso, national sales manager for Caesarstone USA. "Upon returning to the kibbutz, his report was distressing. 'There is good news and bad news,' he said. 'The good news is that wall cladding is indeed a big market in the U. S. The bad news is our material is not going to satisfy that demand.' "
The problem was that while the quality of the product was very high, so was the price. Kibbutz Sdot Yam had gone deeply into debt to build manufacturing facilities for a product that had no viable market.
From Limestone To Quartz
"The managers of the plant said, 'What are we going to do now?,'" says Paradiso. "Eventually they gave up on the wall cladding idea and turned from using limestone as a filler material to quartz, which was plentiful in the area, of high quality and available at a good price. The plan was to make a surfacing material for countertops, tables and shower walls with the new formulation."
In order to accommodate the manufacture of quartz-based slabs most efficiently, the production process was redesigned and machinery retrofitted. The result was the creation of a surfacing material that set new standards for non-porosity and uniformity in appearance, that natural stone could never match. Quartz surfacing had been invented, and its name was Caesarstone.