Travertine: A Natural Stone Seen Around the World

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July 14th 2018
Published: July 14th 2018
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Named after a famous district in Rome, Tivoli, travertine’s origins begin in a small, central Italian city where it was first discovered and used as the primary building material.

The most well-known quarries still exist in Tivoli and Guidonia Montecelio, a city situated near Tivoli in central Rome. These quarries have been around since Ancient Roman times and still remain a prime location for travertine mining today. Italian weather has made Italy the prime location for travertine to thrive, where its usage and origins date back to the middle ages.

Travertine in Roman and European Construction

Guidonia Montecelio also has historical significance because the quarry produced travertine for St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Michelangelo chose travertine as the material to construct the external ribs of the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica, showing how travertine can be used as a work of art. One of the most famous uses of travertine in Roman architecture was the Roman Colosseum, which was built around AD 70.

Although the Romans were notable for using travertine to construct ancient relics, natural travertine is also in abundance in other countries due to the environmental conditions that formed the stone in caves, lakes, and springs. Travertine also had significant historical uses in other parts of Europe and Central America. Europe’s oldest castle, for example, Burghausen Castle, located in Germany, which is over 1,000 years old and is considered the largest castle complex in the world, was built primarily out of travertine.

Not only has travertine been recognized for its ability to frame the façade of beautiful structures but is also known for its natural formations. Travertine has naturally formed to shape beautiful geological landforms that can be found all over the world. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Travertine lines the River Menderes Valley in the Aegean Region of Turkey, for example.

In a scenic display of beauty, travertine deposits form pools of water in this unique travertine landscape also deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Huanglong, China. Another notable UNESCO World Heritage Site, where travertine has created a geological marvel is located in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. In this national park, travertine has created sixteen large dams in a valley that is compromised of several natural waterfalls.

Travertine Quarries Worldwide

Travertine’s ability to create beautiful sprawling natural wonders is why it is becoming a highly demanded material and the first choice of architects and designers around the world. But until the 1980s, Italian travertine quarries produced the majority of the travertine that was on the world market. The shift began when other quarries demanded a share of the marketplace and large quarries were opened in Turkey, Iran, Mexico, and Peru.

Despite the natural travertine formations found in the United States such as in Yellowstone National Park where travertine can famously be found, there aren’t any quarries located directly in the United States. This requires travertine to be mined, stored, and shipped as an import to the United States in order to keep up with demand.

Texas Travertine is the only travertine distributor in the United States that gets travertine directly from quarries in Turkey.

How Travertine is removed from Quarries

Travertine is cut from quarry location using different tools. Channeling machines, chainsaws, wire saws, and waterjet cutting are the most commonly used depending on the weather and placement of the travertine in the earth.

These tools produce giant slabs that stretch several feet high and can weigh up to 40,000 pounds, so removing them is not an easy task. Heavy machinery moves them from the quarry and on to a transport truck to get it to a factory for cutting and finishing.

Once travertine has made it to the warehouse for cutting, it is sliced evenly and into slabs, ready to be sold with matching pieces that have the same colors and designs.


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