Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects over the past couple of decades. But where exactly do these engineered stone slabs originate? Here is an in-depth look at the origins and manufacturing of quartz countertops.
A Brief History of Quartz Countertops
The origins of engineered quartz stone countertops can be traced back to the 1960s when quartz aggregates were first combined with resins to create a durable, non-porous surface material. Some of the early pioneers in manufacturing these countertops included Cambria in the United States and Technistone in Europe.
However, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and 1990s that quartz surfaces really began gaining traction in the countertop industry. Many credit Caesarstone, an Israeli company, with bringing engineered quartz to the mainstream consumer market with their patented technology. Following Caesarstone’s success, other major manufacturers jumped on board.
Silestone, part of the Spanish company Cosentino, became another dominant player starting in the 1990s. And Cambria, which already had over a decade of experience working with quartz, expanded production in the US.
So while engineered quartz originated decades ago, it’s only in the past 20-30 years that it has surged in popularity for residential and commercial spaces. The growth has been particularly pronounced in the last 10-15 years as more colors, patterns, and finishing techniques have been introduced to mimic natural stone.
The Manufacturing Process
Quartz countertops are made by combining roughly 90% ground natural quartz aggregates with about 10% polymer resins and pigments. The exact ratio and type of resins can vary by manufacturer.
Here is a simplified overview of how quartz countertops are manufactured:
- Quartz aggregates – These make up the bulk of the material and provide the hardness, durability, and look. Quartz aggregates come from quarries in different parts of the world.
- Resins – Specialized resins (often polyester or epoxies) act as the adhesive binder. They help form the material into slabs and provide structural stability.
- Pigments – Pigments are added to achieve the desired colors and patterns. Different combinations create quartz slabs ranging from solid whites to bold granites.
- Mixing – The quartz aggregates, resins, and pigments are thoroughly mixed together in large mixing machines.
- Pressing – The mixture is pressed into molds under intense vibration and pressure to remove air pockets and compact it into slabs.
- Curing – The pressed slabs slowly cure in special ovens to harden the resins. Curing times vary but can take several hours.
- Finishing – Once cured, the slabs are further polished, cut to size, and prepared for shipping to fabricators and installers.
So while quartz countertops may look like natural stone, they require an intricate manufacturing process. The combination of quartz aggregates, resins, pigments, and fabrication allows these engineered surfaces to be customized with unique colors, patterns, and textures.
Major Quartz Countertop Brands
There are many quartz countertop brands available on the market today. Here are some of the largest and most popular worldwide manufacturers:
As mentioned, Caesarstone pioneered engineered quartz surfaces starting in 1987. Headquartered in Israel, they now distribute their products in over 50 countries around the globe. Some of their most popular colors are Cloudy Concrete, Rugged Concrete, and Emperadoro.
Silestone by Cosentino is the other dominant global quartz brand. They are known for unique colors like Helix and Integrity as well as collaborations with designers like Diane von Furstenberg. Silestone was also one of the early quartz companies to introduce recycled glass and mirrors into some materials.
Based in Minnesota, Cambria has been manufacturing natural quartz surfaces since 2000. They have over 100 designs including popular whites and neutrals like Brittanicca and Summerhill. Cambria touts their quartz as being 100% made in the USA.
LG Viatera is the quartz division of the large LG conglomerate. Their high-end Radianz line comes in polished, matte, and textured finishes. Viatera quartz is known for its vibrant colors and stylized patterns.
Quartz Master produces over 70 natural quartz slabs in their factories in India. They distribute to major markets like the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. Their line includes options like the multi-colored Gemstone collection.
In addition to natural stone and porcelain, MSI offers a few quartz product lines including Q Premium Natural Quartz, Architectural Surfaces, and Stacked Stone panels. Their most popular colors are classics like Calacatta Nuvo and Statuario.
Vicostone manufactures engineered quartz at their high-tech facilities in Vietnam. Their products feature unique designs like Galactic Blue that mimic natural marble and granites. Vicostone operates showrooms and distributes slabs across North America.
This covers some of the major global brands producing quartz today. But there are also many smaller regional manufacturers offering quartz slabs and countertops as well. The quartz industry remains competitive with new colors and patterns constantly being introduced.
Countries Manufacturing Quartz
While quartz countertop brands distribute their products worldwide, the actual manufacturing is concentrated in a handful of countries. Here are some of the major quartz manufacturing locations:
The United States is home to some of the pioneering quartz manufacturers like Cambria in Minnesota. Their operations in Le Sueur represent the country’s largest quartz factory. Other producers like Caesarstone USA have plants in states like Georgia.
Quartz manufacturing grew substantially in Israel in the 1990s after Caesarstone successfully introduced engineered quartz to the mainstream. Other companies followed suit, and Israel remains a major exporter today.
Cosentino’s Silestone brand produces quartz slabs at its factories in Spain. The company’s headquarters and operations are centered around Almeria in southern Spain.
Quartzforms operates two state-of-the-art quartz plants in Ontario, Canada. They distribute slabs under their QUARTZFORMS® and ALBEDO® brands to markets across North America.
Quartz Master and other manufacturers like Technistone operate large quartz production facilities in India. The region has a booming construction industry creating substantial domestic demand.
Low labor costs and expanding production capabilities have made Vietnam a manufacturing hub, including for engineered quartz. Vicostone is one of the major companies with factories in the country.
Quarella was founded in Italy in 1996 and remains headquartered there today. They export their Italian-made quartz worldwide for residential and commercial installations.
This covers some of the major quartz exporting countries, though China, Turkey, and others also have growing engineered stone industries. The technology and materials needed to manufacture quality quartz does limit production to some extent. But increasing global demand ensures quartz will continue being produced worldwide.
Sourcing the Raw Quartz
While quartz countertops are manufactured in specific locations, the natural quartz aggregates contained in the slabs come from quarries around the globe. Here are some details on where manufacturers source their raw quartz:
- The United States has abundant quartz reserves that help supply US-based manufacturers. Notable regions with quartz deposits include Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.
- Brazil is one of the leading sources of natural quartz due to its unique crystalline rose-colored quartz. Minas Gerais is a major quartz mining state.
- India possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of high-purity quartz. Indian manufacturers like Quartz Master can access local supplies.
- Italy, particularly the northern Lombardy region, mines quartz deposits prized for their sparkling transparency.
- Madagascar is an important provider of quartz aggregates due to reserves of translucent rose quartz.
- Quartz is also mined throughout China, the Middle East, Turkey, Scandinavia, and other parts of the globe. Manufacturers blend aggregates from various sources to create unique looks.
So while the slabs are fabricated close to market, the quartz itself often travels far and wide before becoming a kitchen countertop. Sourcing quartz from diverse locations allows manufacturers to craft hundreds of distinct colors and patterns.
Another question surrounding quartz manufacturing is its environmental impact compared to other countertop options. There are a few key considerations:
- Most quartz today contains recycled content from glass, mirrors, and other post-industrial waste. Some slabs are now FDA-certified for having recycled materials bonded with polymer resins.
- Quartz production does entail mining quartz aggregates and requires raw materials like resins. But its long lifespan means it doesn’t need replacing as often as materials like wood.
- Manufacturing quartz utilizes energy for heating but not as intensive as high-heat processes like metal production or glass making. Some brands use renewable energy sources to reduce their footprint.
- Quartz can be crushed and recycled back into surfaces at the end of its useful life instead of entering landfills. But recycling infrastructure remains limited currently.
- Transportation emissions are incurred when quartz aggregates and slabs are shipped worldwide. Local or regionally produced options reduce total miles travelled.
So while not the most eco-friendly choice, quartz’s durability and increasing recycled content help lessen its environmental impact. Consumers can select options made using sustainable manufacturing practices. And recycling may play a bigger role in the future.
Quartz remains a premium countertop choice with pricing higher than laminate and solid surface options but less than natural stone. Here are a few factors affecting the cost of quartz:
- Raw materials – Sourcing high-purity quartz and resin adders contributes to costs passed onto consumers. More exotic aggregates and pigments also drive up prices.
- Manufacturing – State-of-the-art equipment needed for mixing, vibrocompression, and curing adds overhead expenses manufacturers must recoup.
- Transportation – Importing quartz from overseas and delivering slabs worldwide increases supply chain costs.
- Demand trends – Surging popularity has allowed quartz prices to remain stable as manufacturers achieve economies of scale. But shortages can lead to price spikes.
- Brand – Well-known brands command a premium over lesser-known quartz makers. But quality generics offer big savings.
- Thickness – Thicker 3cm slabs used for counters are pricier than 2cm versions for walls or backsplashes. Jumbo sizes also cost more.
With proper care, quartz offers lasting value despite its higher initial price. And budget options under $50 per square foot installed make quartz attainable for more buyers. But the advanced technology does impact costs compared to traditional countertops.
Everything points to quartz countertops continuing to secure market share in the future. According to leading industry research firms like Mordor Intelligence, the global engineered quartz market is projected to hit $8.96 billion USD by 2027. That represents a healthy compound annual growth rate of 5.7% over the next five years.
Here are some other predictions about the future of the quartz industry:
- New players are likely to enter and expand manufacturing, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Recycled content and sustainability will become bigger differentiators between brands.
- Distinct surface designs and textures will emerge to mimic trends like concrete, metals, and natural stone looks.
- Large slabs exceeding 130” x 65” may become more widely available.
- Pricing could come down slightly but remain stable as production scales up.
So while quartz originated decades ago, its popularity trajectory continues pointing upward. The innovative manufacturers around the globe will keep coming up with new styles and technology to make quartz countertops an attractive option into the foreseeable future.
FAQs About Quartz Countertop Origins
Quartz countertops inspire many common questions about their background and manufacturing. Here are helpful answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Is all quartz made in the same place?
No, quartz is manufactured in different factories around the world. Major production centers include the United States, Spain, Israel, India, and Vietnam. But quartz aggregates are mined globally before being transported to manufacturing facilities.
What companies first made quartz countertops?
Engineered quartz surfaces originated around 50 years ago. Some early pioneers in manufacturing included Cambria in the U.S. and Technistone in Europe. Caesarstone helped popularize quartz for mainstream consumers starting in the late 1980s.
Where does engineered quartz come from?
While manufactured in select countries, the raw quartz aggregates contained in slabs are sourced from quarries across the globe. Common locations include Brazil, India, the United States, and parts of Africa.
Does quartz come from natural stone?
Yes, quartz countertops contain around 90% ground natural quartz. Polymer resins make up the other 10% and act as the adhesive binder. The resins come from chemical manufacturing while the quartz originates in mines.
What country produces the most quartz?
The United States and Israel have historically had the highest quartz production capacities globally. Vietnam, China, Spain, and India are also major manufacturing hubs serving both domestic and international markets.
Where are Caesarstone quartz countertops made?
The Israeli company Caesarstone pioneered engineered quartz in the late 1980s. They now operate factories in several locations, including Israel, the United States, and Australia to serve global customers.
What raw materials are in quartz manufacturing?
Natural quartz aggregates, polymer resin adhesives, and pigments are the three core raw materials. The resins and pigments are synthetically produced while the quartz aggregates are sourced from quarrying natural deposits.
Can you tell where a quartz slab was made?
It can be difficult for consumers to conclusively trace a slab’s origin. Brands source quartz and produce in different global locations. The technology also allows creating similar designs worldwide. Checking the manufacturer is the best method.
Does quartz come from Italy?
Some premium quartz is produced in Italy by manufacturers like Quarella. But much of the quartz used by Italian companies comes from mines in places like Brazil. Italy’s role is often fabricating slabs rather than mining raw quartz.
In summary, quartz countertops originate from an intriguing global supply chain. While engineered stone was invented decades ago, its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Leading manufacturers like Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone operate factories on different continents that transform locally mined quartz aggregates into resilient slabs using advanced fabrication technologies.
The manufacturing process combines around 90% ground quartz with about 10% pigments and polymer resins. This allows endless customization to mimic natural stone looks. To reduce environmental impacts, recycled glass and mirrors are increasingly incorporated during fabrication as well.
With more striking designs, recycled content, and efficient mass production, quartz should continue gaining market share into the future. But sourcing quartz worldwide and delivering slabs globally comes with an environmental cost. However, quartz’s durability and recyclability help offset impacts compared to other countertops. For quality, customization, and performance, quartz’s global origins contribute to its appeal for homeowners, builders, and designers.