Stonehenge. The word conjures up images of Neolithic monuments constructed by the ancients for purposes we still have yet to completely decipher. NewGrange. Spirals etched as a design into monoliths the origins of which are still a mystery – just so the movements of the sun could be measured. Man has always utilized stone as a building material in a foundational fashion. Perhaps taking inspiration from caves deep within the Earth, man has learned to mine, hammer, chisel, etch and otherwise manipulate stone into dwellings and decor since time began.
Today, man’s need for shelter, coupled with an aesthetic desire for beauty in his surroundings still inspires designers’ use of natural stone for everything from rock walls, walks, driveways, chimneys and fireplace mantels to a polished granite kitchen countertop or tile slabs in a luxurious shower. What used to be, and mostly still is a source of raw building material for ancient man is still present in his environment today. Modern machinery has made the tough job of mining stone easier and more economical, but it hasn’t changed the beauty nor lessened the appeal of natural stone as a design medium. From rock walls to cemetery monuments to Mt. Rushmore, man has endeavored to leave his mark, and leave it written in stone. The Romans perfected concrete, and modern day masons still can’t replicate it to a comparable result. It seems the ancients knew their stone well, and somewhere we lost that knowledge, but not the desire to use all types of stone in building things.
It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a walkway in your garden, tiling your bathroom, pool or a water feature in your lawn, stone is going to make an appearance. All the colors in nature are available in stone medium…and sometimes it’s so cost prohibitive that “faux stone” is now a thing. And sometimes it’s every bit as pricey as the natural stuff.
But what is it about stone that compels us to build things out of it? Perhaps it’s permanence and durability? Is it because it retains the warmth of the sun on a hot day? Or because it can remain several degrees cooler than the air around it when not directly exposed to the sun? Is it a smooth expanse, or a silky hardness that can be polished to a shine, or the tumbled surface of aged or distressed stone that draws our touch in passing?
Some people even believe stone has rejeuventive and healing powers. Just ask any hiker who has removed their shoes and rested their tired feet on tourmaline laced serpentine rock, or slid their bare feet across the mossy stones in a creekbed.
Ancient man made tools of stone, indeed an entire epoch is called the “Stone Age” marking man’s mastery of this element of his environment. From a pebble in a stream, to the columns of ancient temples to the granite countertops in our kitchens, man has remained fascinated with this abundant, natural element and the many ways it can be used, transformed, chiseled, ground, molded and mined like precious metals. Semi-precious stones are used in jewelry, decorative enhancements and design elements.
Whatever the timeless attraction that makes it so appealing, we just cannot get enough of stone as a building material. In the end, it is usually all that is left of the legacy man leaves behind.
As always we appreciate you reading. Many thanks to our guest poster L.C. Rixie and to the mosaicists at Mozaico.