There are not many features in a newly built or refurbished property that are 350 million years old, but a polished stone floor could be one of them, particularly if it is from Britain and is thus likely to have its origins as far back as the Dinantian epoch, when dinosaurs roamed the wetlands of these islands and Britain sat over the equator. But if lucky enough to have a stone floor of this age it is most likely carboniferous limestone stone, which is often referred to as Shining Stone because of the way it takes a polish. It is a composite of millions of crustacean fossils preserved and compacted within marine sediments that has delivered its unique look and colour spectrum, one that so perfectly suits the British light and interiors. Neither garish nor dull, its palette is perfectly in tune with these islands’ landscape.
Its cousin, 200 million years younger, oolitic limestone with its popular scions Portland and Bath stone have been prevalent within British buildings over the years because their relative softness made them easier to work with. In contrast carboniferous limestones like Swaledale Fossil from North Yorkshire and Hopton Wood from Derbyshire have, until now, been more complex stones to economically carve. However, modern technologies have made the process immeasurably more efficient, but where carboniferous stones really steal a march is on their ability to have different finishes from honing, to polished, to highly polished states. And these finishes are a distinct advantage especially amongst foreign buyers who prefer a highly glazed appearance for their stone floors and are willing to pay for the look.
So the versatility of British carboniferous limestone in attracting the attention of a diverse – and, perhaps worth noting, monied - clientele is catapulting the stone into a renewed area of activity. The extensive range of colour and pattern options is astounding; the dark black and grey swirls of Ashburton Pink which adorned the original London Hilton, to the blood red of Eskett Red to the Green Serpentines’ red and greens from Anglesey made famous by George Bullock whose furniture is now in the V&A.
Thus production of these often rare stones (another of their attractions) is increasing at a controlled pace with prestigious developments such as private residences, luxury retail developments, and global headquarters being the core investors. If a building requires a statement entrance British stone is just the ticket; hard wearing with a beautiful and sophisticated appearance plus, and of particular importance, unique.
Interior usage ranges from cantilevered stairways, luxurious bathrooms (both floor and walls), kitchen surfaces and fireplaces; all declare the owners intent to create something lasting and of true beauty. Certainly not inexpensive British Shining Stones are increasingly becoming a benchmark of quality.
In an industry that is worth around £1/2 billion a year and increasing at 10% annually the natural stone and ceramic business is enjoying a boom. Whilst natural stone only accounts for around 10% of this industry it sits exactly where it wants to be – a material used by the discerning clientele wishing to portray exclusivity, luxury, rarity and Britishness. No finer accolade is really required.
By Orlando Boyne, director Britannicus Stone, www.britannicus-stone.co.uk