For many manufacturers, quartz is a material that carries many desirable qualities in the current day. The set of criteria that customers have when purchasing fixtures for a new home can be very different from what they once were and quartz has benefitted greatly from this.
There was a time when a certain style or shape would be seen as a sign of status and this could occasionally cause buyers to lose sight of the most important factors when designing a home.
Durability and reliability are now at the top of many people’s priority lists, but this also needs to come at a reasonable price, given the financial pressures that many families continue to be under.
This is one of the reasons that quartz has become such a popular material for suppliers of fixtures such as kitchen worktops. The dense nature of quartz means spillages that would have the potential to stain marble or limestone needn’t be a worry as its hardwearing state makes scratches and chips less of a risk.
But what of the origins of quartz? With its popularity, the extraction and distribution of quartz has become a huge industry and with that in mind, we thought we would take a closer look at quartz mining and the processes that takes it from the ground to customers’ homes.
Although its use in household fixtures is on the up, quartz mining is an industry that relies on millions of years of physical process. The material is formed by the gradual pressure that quartz crystals are subjected to over millennia, before being mined for industrial use all over the planet.
Traditionally, its main use has been in electrical products like radios and clocks, with it creating a sleek look and high-end appearance for consumers. However, quartz is a broad moniker that can be used to describe a far-reaching range of different stones, some of which carry much greater value than others once mined.
Certain forms of quartz can carry a value of thousands of pounds just for a small gem stone, with rarer crystals being used for jewelry and decorative clothing items.
The scarcity of quartz means that there are few mining districts that can still justify commercial operations, but the American state of Arkansas is famous for having one of the healthiest yields on the planet.
The Arkansas quartz belt
This healthy provision of quartz in Arkansas is such that there is a line of between 30 and 40 mining locations in the state that form mining hotspots known as ‘the quartz belt’. For manufacturers who produce goods using the stone, this is perhaps the most important place on earth, with the potential to make or break their fortunes.
Areas including Oklahoma, Garland, Perry, Montgomery, and Saline all play host to mines where quartz is supplied, but other surrounding towns and villages are said to contain undeveloped crystals, offering peace of mind that the material should still be available for thousands of years to come.
The great unknown
However, the main complication is that the way quartz is formed means it is very hard to establish how much is still developing. The long and gradual process of crystals turning into stone could be disrupted by ongoing changes in the planet’s natural process – for example climate change. Quartz is known for being a substance that is particularly susceptible to damage if it is exposed to unpredictable changes in temperature.
This also influences the way in which miners must extract quartz from quarries. With many other materials, explosives are the primary method of breaking them free from the rock face, but the sudden increase in heat means that quartz can become unusable.
With this in mind, it is more likely that quartz miners will stick to using bulldozers and drills to extract it. These approaches use an appropriate amount of force to free the material according to its hardness, but also give the best chance of yielding quartz that will be highly valued by potential goods manufacturers.