Quartz countertops, also known as engineered stone countertops, have become an extremely popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects over the last couple of decades. But when exactly were quartz countertops invented? To understand the origins of this innovative countertop material, we need to go back several decades.
The Development of Engineered Stone in the 1960s
The beginnings of engineered stone can be traced back to the 1960s, when Italian company Breton S.P.A developed an innovative technology called Bretonstone Technology. This involved combining quartz particles with resins and pigments and compacting them under vacuum and vibration into slabs.
The resulting material, called engineered stone, was harder and more durable than natural stone materials like granite and marble. It was also easier to work with and could be manufactured in a virtually unlimited range of colors and patterns.
The first engineered stone product introduced by Breton was called Silestone, launched in 1987. Silestone was composed of over 90% quartz aggregates combined with resins and pigments. This is considered to be one of the first materials to resemble modern quartz countertops.
The Introduction of Cambria in 2000
Through the 1990s, engineered stone continued to grow in popularity in Europe. In the United States, granite still dominated the high-end countertop market.
That changed in 2000, when a Minnesota-based company called Cambria introduced the first quartz surface engineered specifically for kitchen and bathroom countertops to the US market.
Cambria quartz was made from 93% natural quartz with resins and pigments making up the remaining 7%. It was harder than granite and provided an attractive alternative with its wide range of colors and patterns.
The launch of Cambria marked a major milestone in making quartz a mainstream countertop choice in North America. Unlike earlier engineered stone products, Cambria quartz was marketed primarily for countertops rather than flooring or other applications.
Quartz Countertops Take Off in the 2000s
The success of Cambria spurred other companies to introduce their own brands of quartz countertops in the early 2000s. Some of the major brands that launched during this period include:
- Caesarstone – Launched in 1987, but expanded into the US market in the early 2000s with a wider range of quartz countertop products.
- Silestone – Already popular in Europe, Silestone quartz entered the US market in 2003 through a partnership with Cosentino.
- Zodiaq – DuPont launched its Zodiaq quartz surfaces in 2003, heavily marketing them as an innovative, high-tech product.
- HanStone – The Korean company Hanwha Surfaces launched its HanStone quartz in 2003 as well.
As more brands entered the market, quartz grew from being a niche product in the 1990s to a major player in the countertop industry. Fabricators also became more experienced at cutting, installing, and handling quartz.
According to one estimate, the engineered quartz countertop market in the US grew from just 2% of overall countertop sales in 2003 to around 13% by 2007. Quartz was taking market share away from laminate and solid surface countertops in particular.
Why Quartz Became Popular for Countertops
There are several key reasons why quartz proved to be such a hit for kitchen and bathroom countertops:
- Appearance – With engineered quartz, manufacturers could create countertops in virtually any color, pattern, and finish imaginable. Quartz provides the look of natural stone with more consistency.
- Durability – Quartz is harder and more scratch-resistant than granite. It holds up better to heavy usage in kitchens.
- Care – Unlike natural stone, quartz does not require regular sealing. It is virtually maintenance-free.
- Versatility – Quartz can be fabricated into a wide array of countertop shapes, including very thin edges. Seams are barely visible.
- Hygienic – Quartz does not absorb liquids and resists staining much better than other natural stones.
As consumers learned of these benefits, quartz surged in popularity for remodeling and new construction projects. By 2013, quartz represented over 30% of the high-end countertop market. The growth of quartz countertops has steadily continued in the years since.
Recent Innovations in Quartz Countertops
While the core formula of over 90% ground quartz combined with resins/pigments remains the same, quartz countertop manufacturing has continued to innovate in recent years:
- Greater stain, scratch, and heat resistance – New resins and manufacturing techniques have enhanced quartz’s durability.
- Overflow and waterfall edges – Thinner slabs and edge profiles create a sleeker look.
- Special finishes – Makers are offering unique finishes like crushed glass, seashell, and semi-precious minerals embedded in the quartz.
- Larger slabs – Jumbo-size slabs over 15 feet long help create seamless countertops.
- Thicker slabs – Some makers offer 1.5″ thick slabs for a sturdier feel and more depth.
- More recycling – Eco-friendly recycling programs use a higher percentage of recycled content.
- Smart technology – LED lighting, wireless charging, and integrated scales are being incorporated into cutting-edge quartz countertops.
Quartz vs. Other Major Countertop Materials
Quartz has distinguished itself from other countertop materials like granite, marble, and solid surfaces in several ways:
Quartz vs. Granite
- More consistent coloring throughout the slab.
- Lower maintenance without regular sealing required.
- Higher durability and resistant to scratches/chipping.
- Manufactured in very large slabs to minimize seams.
Quartz vs. Marble
- Much lower porosity than natural marble.
- Does not stain easily or show etching from acidic foods/liquids.
- More durable to chips, cracks, and heavy usage.
- Easier to clean and maintain.
Quartz vs. Solid Surfaces
- Made from natural stone versus man-made acrylic/polyester resins.
- More heat resistance and less susceptible to burn marks.
- Stands up better to heavy objects and force.
- More color/pattern options trying to mimic real stone.
So while more expensive than laminates, quartz provides better performance, beauty, and durability than these other options in many cases. It occupies a middle ground between high-maintenance natural stone and less durable solid surfaces.
Quartz Countertop Brands
The quartz countertop market has consolidated over the last 15 years, with a few prominent brands emerging:
- Caesarstone – One of the largest global quartz manufacturers with over 50 color options. Pioneer in the market.
- Cambria – Largest American-based brand. Focus is exclusively on quartz. Many unique designs.
- Silestone – Made by Cosentino. Known for excellent quality and stylish looks. Over 90 colors.
- LG Viatera – High-end brand from electronics maker LG. Striving for most premium quartz.
- QuartzMaster – Sold at IKEA, known for affordable pricing and smaller color selection.
- PentalQuartz – Family-owned brand with excellent quality. Available at many home centers.
- MSI Q Premium – Budget-friendly option from a large surfacing manufacturer. Very wide distribution.
- Hanwha (HanStone) – South Korean company with unique colors and patterns like ombre gradient effects.
Along with these major brands, smaller specialty quartz makers help give consumers plenty of choices for their remodeling or new construction projects. Many brands focus on certain strengths like color variety, tech innovations, eco-friendliness, or pricing.
Costs of Quartz Countertops
The costs of quartz countertops fall within a wide range:
- Low end – $50 – $70 per square foot for budget brands like IKEA’s QuartzMaster line. Limited colors and patterns.
- Mid-range – $70 – $100 per square foot installed. Best value for quality. Most popular options like Caesarstone.
- High-end – $100 – $150 per square foot for premium designer brands with unique looks.
- Average range – Most homeowners spend $80 – $120 per installed square foot for quartz.
Quartz costs more than laminate but is competitive with similarly styled granite and solid surface materials. The total cost depends on the brand, complexity of installation, countertop dimensions, and other factors.
Should I Choose Quartz for My Home?
Quartz is an excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms if you want:
- Little maintenance without frequent sealing needed
- Resistance to scratches, impacts, heat damage, and stains
- Consistent coloring and minimal visible seaming
- Modern, stylish appearance in many color/finish options
- Good value for performance compared to natural stone
However, quartz may not be the best option if you want a countertop that:
- Has unique natural patterning like granite
- Can develop a worn patina over time
- Can be repaired/refinished instead of fully replaced if damaged
- Is the most budget-friendly choice for countertops
Talk to a professional countertop installer to see if quartz is right for your needs versus other countertop materials. Be sure to review warranty terms as well. With proper care, quartz countertops can last for many years of heavy use.
Frequently Asked Questions About Quartz Countertops
Here are answers to some common questions homeowners have about quartz countertops:
Are quartz countertops durable?
Yes, quartz countertops are highly durable and resistant to scratches, stains, impacts, and heat much better than many other countertop options. They can stand up well to heavy usage in kitchens.
How is quartz different than granite countertops?
Quartz is engineered from quartz particles, not a fully natural stone like granite. It has more consistent coloring and patterning. Quartz requires less maintenance without regular sealing. It resists scratches better but does not develop a patina over time.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
While durable, it is still best to use cutting boards instead of cutting directly on quartz. Quartz can dull knives faster than wood or plastic. Very hard impacts may chip quartz.
Do quartz countertops stain?
Quartz has very low porosity, so it resists staining from spills much better than granite or marble. But some oils and liquids can still cause stains over time if left to soak in. Quartz requires occasional cleaning with stone cleaners to look its best.
Is quartz healthier than other countertops?
Quartz does not harbor bacteria growth like some more porous materials. But all countertops should be kept clean for healthy food prep. Granite and marble can leach limited radon gas, unlike quartz. Overall, quartz is considered a very hygienic option.
How often should quartz countertops be sealed?
Quartz countertops never need sealing, unlike natural stone surfaces that require periodic sealing. One of the advantages of quartz is that it is essentially maintenance free in terms of sealing or waxing.
Can you repair quartz countertops?
Small chips or cracks in quartz can sometimes be repaired by a professional, depending on severity. But extensive damage or stains usually require a full replacement of the affected section. Quartz is harder to repair than some natural stones where refinishing is an option.
While engineered quartz surfaces were first developed in the 1960s, it took innovations in the early 2000s to make quartz into the wildly popular countertop material it is today. The unique performance advantages, aesthetics, and easy maintenance of quartz have made it rise to dominance in remodeling and new high-end home construction.
With on-going innovations in quartz manufacturing, it is likely that this versatile surface has not yet reached its full potential. New finishing techniques, embedded materials, large-scale fabrication, and smart technology integration will continue advancing quartz countertops.
For homeowners that want stylish, hygienic, durable, and low-maintenance countertops, quartz is sure to remain a top contender among all available surface options. Knowing the history of this innovative material provides helpful context around why quartz countertops have become such a hit in a relatively short time period.