18 October 2008

"Natural" my butt

This is iron in its natural state.

But if I melt it down and mix it with the carbon I get from super heating limestone it will become something else. So can I still say that this house is being framed with natural iron framing material?

This is wood in it's natural state.

If I chop up wood into small pieces and mix it with a polymer adhesive, can I still call this natural wood substrate?

If I called steel "natural iron framing" or if I said that particle board were natural wood anything people would say I didn't know what I'm talking about. Right?

This is quartz in its natural state.

If I chop up that quartz, dye it and then add a petroleum-derived polymer to it I can still call it a "Natural Quartz."  Right?

Huh? Well according to most of the manufacturers of the product above I can. Silestone actually has it as part of the name of their product. "Silestone Natural Quartz,"  they call it. But it isn't just Silestone. The whole industry uses that term in an attempt to muddy the water and leave people with the impression that Quartz counters come out of the ground. Or that they're sustainable. After all, they're natural, right? 

In Europe, that product is referred to as composite. I like that better. So composite it will be from now on.

Composite is a counter material that I like. Though I cannot stand how its marketed. I like Caesarstone above all of them, and that's due in a large part to the fact that they shy away from the whole natural thing. But c'mon already. Things have names and names are important. There is an objective truth out there and marketing be damned.

I went to a seminar sponsored by the father of all lies, DuPont, a couple of years ago. DuPont makes a composite product called Zodiaq and this seminar was one of my continuing education things that designers are supposed to go to from time to time. There were about 20 of us and as we filed into the conference room, some DuPont lackey handed each of us a black velvet bag with a quartz crystal inside. They were acting as if they were giving each of us the Hope Diamond or something.

Anyhow, the kids in the marketing department had been working over time to come up with the content of this seminar. The web of deception spun by those people was incredible. The party line is that DuPont has a very special and secret quartz mine in Canada where they harvest crystals like the ones we'd been given. Once harvested, those perfect crystals are lovingly and magically turned into Zodiaq brand Natural Quartz counters. There may be other brands out there, they whispered, but none of them have a special and secret mine in Canada.

Spare me.

Here's how quartz comes out of the earth. Quartz is the most common mineral found in the earth's crust. It forms alongside other ores and until people started making composite counters with it, it was considered to be waste and used as landfill.

Quartz and other waste stone aggregates are what composite counters are made from. Not magically obtained and transformed quartz crystals.

That certainly doesn't make them inferior or bad. In fact, I think it's a testament to human intelligence and ingenuity that someone figured out a way to make something beautiful out of a waste product. It's a clever reuse and in bringing it to market, composite developers and manufacturers created a whole new category of counter material and that's a pretty cool thing.

Next time, I'll say nice things about quartz. Stay tuned.

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