Behind the scenes at Salvatori: how we choose our stone


One of the key characteristics of natural stone is, of course, that is natural. While that may seem a case of stating the obvious, one of the most common questions we are asked is why stone tiles are not all identical.

When you choose natural stone, you are embracing the characteristics that make it such a special and unique material, including veining, tiny holes, remnants of fossils and its lack of homogeneity. Even stone from the same quarry can have different tonalities because, for example, of its exposure to the outside air. That said, however, when it comes to selecting the material we use to fulfil our clients’ orders, we do our best to harmonise pieces as best we can and to provide tiles or slabs which, when combined, will create a cohesive effect.

When you choose natural stone, you are embracing the characteristics that make it such a special and unique material

The quality of the source material

Of course, it all starts with the quality of the stone, and we adhere to extremely rigid parameters for every single block or slab we select.  The same goes for the pieces we cut, whether it’s for a tile, a bathtub, a table top or a smaller item such as a soap dish or tray. We look at every block, slab and piece and decide what type of product or texture it would best be used for, based on its suitability, finish, veining and tonality.

Tonal cohesion

When you look at a block or slab of marble, there is almost always a graduation of shading and veining. If we cut 12 tiles measuring, for example, 60 x 60 cm from a slab, and then pack them in two sets of six tiles, when you, the client, later remove the tiles and start to lay them out, you are inevitably going to see some differences in tonality which may even be jarring to the eye. Let’s imagine you take a tile that was cut from the top left of a slab and a tile from the bottom right of the same slab. They may look completely different, and that is why it’s important to move tiles around and match them as closely as possible so as to recreate that graduation which seemed so natural and cohesive on the original slab. We do this as much as we can when packing tiles, so much of the work in matching (or, as we like to think of it, putting together the jigsaw puzzle) is already done by the time they arrive at the project site.

Colour grading

To ensure minimal “disharmony” we also colour-grade every block or slab of stone that we receive before we start working on it. This also means that if a client wants additional material weeks, months or even years later, we can provide a close match to the original.  For example, Bianco Carrara currently has almost 50 colour grades as evaluated by the Salvatori scale. Silk Georgette, which is popular for its wonderful waves of colour, is categorised by 20 tonalities. A very few types of stones, such as Pietra d’Avola limestone, are more homogeneous and as such there is no need to categorise them.

We also work closely with our suppliers to limit extraction in order to reduce the types of tonality, which again, is extremely helpful for clients who come back asking to add tiles some years later.

Pre-lay service

If a client is not confident about mastering the “jigsaw puzzle”, we offer a pre-lay service. This could be for a single room or a series of spaces. We ask you to provide plans for where the stone will be used and we will hand select tiles for each space and pack them in complete solutions so that when they arrive, it is easy to identify where they should be laid. For further information about this, please contact our customer care team.