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Travertine Uses and History


We hear a large number these days about marble and granite, but you probably did not know that travertine is one of the most often used stones in up to date architecture. Its main uses are in wall cladding, façade materials, flooring and other applications, like fireplaces and cooker hoods. It is neutral and exotic colouring makes it a great partner with other stones like marble, granite and limestone.

Travertine derives its name from Tivoli, Italy where widespread deposits of the stone are found. Tivoli was known as Tibur in ancient Roman times. The ancient name for the stone was lapis tibertinus, meaning Tiber stone, which has evolved into travertine.

Other key deposits of travertine can be found in Mexico, Turkey, China and Afghanistan. In the United States, there are only two active travertine deposits, including four quarries operated by New Mexico Travertine, 20 miles west of Belen, south of Albuquerque. The other American quarry is in Idaho. Pitted holes and troughs in its surface distinguish travertine, which occur naturally. At first look they like that the stone has had some wear and tear. Some fitters will fill the holes with grout. Others leave them in a natural state.

In fact, travertine is sedimentary rock, a natural chemical precipitate of carbonate materials, characteristically aragonite.

Pure travertine is white, but is often brown to yellow due to impurities caused by springs or rivers. These impurities can often create wonderfully coloured bands resulting from the presence of iron. or other compounds.

The biggest structure in the world built manly of travertine is the Coliseum in Rome. In America, one of the most well known buildings in which travertine is used at length is the Getty Centre in Los Angeles.

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