Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for home kitchens and bathrooms over the past couple of decades. But who first invented this engineered stone product that has gained so much favor? The origins of quartz countertops can be traced back to the 1960s and the work of two Italian companies.
The Development of Engineered Stone
In the early 1960s, quartz surfaces were first created by Breton S.P.A., an Italian company founded by Marcello Toncelli. Breton had developed a patented technology called Bretonstone®, which allowed them to bond together crushed quartz with resins and other materials under intense vibration and pressure to form a slab. This process created a highly durable and consistent engineered stone product.
Around the same time, another Italian company called Dupont invented a similar engineered stone product trademarked as Zodiaq®. Their proprietary process was called Fusion Technology and involved vibrocompression under vacuum conditions to eliminate air pockets and create slabs of uniform density.
Both Bretonstone® and Zodiaq® represented new categories of engineered stone that had not existed before. The vibrocompression techniques developed by these two companies allowed quartz particles to be pressed together into a slab that was non-porous, attractive, and durable.
The Rise of Quartz Countertops
In the 1980s, engineered quartz surfaces began to gain attention for potential use as countertop slabs. Their non-porous, stain-resistant, and resilient properties made them well-suited for kitchen and bathroom applications.
The technology was first commercialized for countertops in the late 80s and early 90s by Bretonstone®. Companies using Bretonstone® technology under license emerged during this time, manufacturing quartz slabs specifically designed for countertop installation.
In the 1990s, DuPont registered the Zodiaq® name and licensed their patented process to other companies wanting to manufacture quartz surfaces. Major brands like Silestone, Cambria, and Caesarstone were early adopters of DuPont’s technology.
The early 2000s saw quartz countertops really enter the mainstream home design consciousness. As more brands entered the market, increased competition and mass production helped drive down costs. Quartz became an affordable luxury surface that was actively marketed as a lower maintenance alternative natural stone countertops like granite and marble.
By the 2010s, quartz had become one of the most widely used countertop materials for kitchen and bath renovation projects, now comprising over 10% of the market share. Continued innovation in quartz countertop manufacturing has further expanded color options and designs.
Major Brands and Manufacturers
While Bretonstone® and Zodiaq® pioneered the technologies that enabled engineered quartz surfaces, many other companies have built brands around manufacturing quartz countertops. Here are some of the major players:
- Caesarstone – One of the earliest adopters of quartz technology in 1987, Caesarstone has become the largest manufacturer of quartz surfaces in the world. They have over 50 color options and patterns available.
- Cambria – Founded in 2000, Cambria is a leading American brand known for natural quartz designs. They also produce other engineered stone surfaces.
- Silestone – Part of the Spanish company Cosentino, Silestone entered the quartz market in the late 1990s. They have over 90 colors and styles.
- LG Viatera – Using DuPont’s technology, LG Hausys has been manufacturing Viatera quartz since 2001 as a high-end surface.
- Quartz Master – This company focuses on making affordable quartz slabs and providing them to fabricators and consumers.
- Vicostone – A major quartz manufacturer in Vietnam, Vicostone exports its engineered stone worldwide for residential and commercial use.
- Hanwha – The South Korean company Hanwha first started producing its HanStone quartz line in 2003 and is now a global leader in the industry.
The Invention Process Behind Quartz Countertops
While Breton and DuPont developed the core technologies that allowed engineered quartz to be fabricated into slabs, manufacturing quartz countertops required innovations in processing and installation.
Key Processing Innovations
- Mixing – Creating consistent, attractive blends of quartz grains and resins.
- Pigments – Adding color tints to achieve desired shades and patterns.
- Casting – Pouring the quartz mixture into molds before compression.
- Vibrocompression – Innovations in vibration and vacuum technologies to compact slabs.
- Curing – Heating and cooling methods to properly harden slabs.
- Polishing – Grinding and polishing processes to create smooth, glossy finishes.
Installation and Fabrication Advances
- Cutting – Using water jets and diamond-tipped blades to precisely cut shapes.
- Edges – Shaping and polishing the sides and edges of quartz pieces.
- Seams – Minimizing seams between quartz pieces for seamless look.
- Joints – Joining quartz slabs together tightly to form complete countertop.
- Support – Right wall support and base structures to securely install quartz.
- Sink Cutouts – Cutting custom holes to fit sinks and basins into quartz surface.
So while the founders of Breton and DuPont unleashed the potential of engineered quartz, many other innovators contributed to developing quartz countertops into the popular consumer product we know today.
Timeline of Key Events in the Invention of Quartz Countertops
- Early 1960s – Bretonstone® and Zodiaq® engineered stone technologies invented.
- Late 1980s – First quartz surfaces commercially produced for countertops using Bretonstone®.
- 1990s – Major brands adopt and license Zodiaq® process to make quartz slabs.
- Early 2000s – Quartz breaks into mainstream home renovation market as a granite/marble alternative.
- 2010s – Quartz becomes one of the most widely used countertop materials.
- Today – Hundreds of colors, patterns, and styles available as brands compete in the quartz countertop market.
The Future of Quartz Countertops
Engineered quartz surfaces are now well-established as a countertop option after first emerging just a few decades ago. But manufacturers continue to innovate and push the boundaries of quartz fabrication.
Some areas of potential advancement include:
- More realistic natural stone aesthetics with added veining, chips, and cracks captured within the slabs.
- Greater stain, scratch, and chip resistance through enhanced resins and compression.
- Improved heat resistance to allow quartz use near cooking surfaces.
- Introduction of anti-microbial and self-cleaning properties within quartz surfaces.
- Custom digital printing capabilities to create unique patterns and looks.
- Smoother seams and joints between quartz pieces during fabrication and installation.
- Recycling processes to reduce waste from quartz manufacturing.
With quartz already transformed into a widely popular countertop material through decades of innovation, further advancements can cement its status as a staple of home design for years to come. The invention of quartz countertops stands as a testament to the power of engineering stone into beautiful, functional surfaces.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Invention of Quartz Countertops
Who first invented quartz surfaces?
Two Italian companies independently developed the first quartz surfaces in the early 1960s – Breton with Bretonstone® technology and DuPont with Zodiaq® technology.
When were quartz countertops first invented?
Bretonstone® engineered quartz was first used commercially for countertop applications in the late 1980s. Quartz countertops went mainstream in the early 2000s.
What makes quartz countertops unique?
Quartz countertops are engineered by vibrocompression, creating a non-porous, resistant, and resilient surface that differs from natural stone.
How did quartz become popular as a countertop material?
Affordable mass production and marketing as a lower maintenance alternative to granite and marble helped drive adoption of quartz countertops starting in the 2000s.
What kinds of innovation led to quartz countertop manufacturing?
Everything from mixing quartz grains to polishing, seamless installation, and optimizing countertop support contributed to the rise of quartz countertops.
While natural stones have been used for millennia, engineered quartz countertops only emerged within the past 50 years as a unique product of Italian innovation. Through patented vibrocompression techniques and ongoing advances in manufacturing, quartz has rapidly become a default surface for modern kitchens and baths. The invention of quartz countertops marked a pivotal milestone in utilizing engineered stone for beautiful, practical design.