Peter’s Corner: for 2024 and the coming years, there will be a whole new diversity in the stone sector, with new uses for the material and many new product ideas

Peter Becker, editor-in-chief, Stone-Ideas.com.

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Let us take a look at the automotive industry to explain what we mean by “diversity.“

This industry is characterized by the fact that it has the right car for every taste, every purpose, and every budget (above a certain limit).

This is one of the key criteria for the resounding success of this product for over 120 years.

When we look at natural stone, this variety does not exist.

Now something is happening.

Take architecture, for example, where stone is coming back into fashion as a load-bearing building material. In recent decades, it has largely been used for decorative purposes only. Examples were cladding facades, floors or walls, or elements such as worktops.

The reason for its upcoming use as a solid material is the ecological footprint of a building.

The topic is coming onto the market with vigor: the German Natural Stone Association (DNV) will be holding a congress in English on solid construction with natural stone at the Stone+tec trade fair in June 2024. Practitioners and experts from universities will discuss the topic there.

Until now, this use of stone has only been seen in niches.

This congress shows that diversity is also emerging at natural stone trade fairs.

Here a small show has taken up a big topic of the future, and one can assume that it will make it its trademark. We’re talking about Rocalia held every two years in November/December in Lyon: it is the only sector show to focus on the topic of dry stone walls.

Here, too, a “green“ field of action for stone is taken up.

Solid constructions with natural stone make it possible to build and live with a low CO2 footprint. Please note: we’re not talking about the style of the building, but the material alone.Product design with natural stone from China: functional and mass-produced. Designer Femo Wong: side table „Pisa“.

Still more diversity is emerging in product design, i.e. objects for everyday use made of stone. Since the 1960s, this field has been the exclusive territory of Italian companies and their trade fairs Marmotec in Carrara and Marmomac in Verona. Marmomac, then still known as Marmomacc, had made a name for itself with its Marmomacc Meets Design initiative and later the Italian Stone Theater.

In the meantime, numerous other countries have also tackled the issue professionally by inviting young designers and students to take part in competitions. These are mainly Turkey with its associations IMIB and EIB and the Marble Fair in Izmir. The Swedish natural stone association Sveriges Stenindustriförbund should also be mentioned. And in Brazil, too, successful design ideas were on display at the Vitória trade fair, initiated by the Abirochas association.

They bring diversity in that they approach the subject of product design soberly and without artistic ambitions: the aim is to create usable objects for everyday use. Above all, the objects should sell, not just be experiments. This could not always be said of the ideas from Italy

Designers from China are already one step ahead in this area, as was demonstrated at the 2023 trade fair in Xiamen. We showed some of the products, and we dare to predict that when these objects come onto the market in the West – at the moment they are still in sufficient demand at home – product design here will be shaken up considerably.

This will be very much to the advantage of consumers, and therefore to the advantage of the stone sector. Because then it will be like the automobile: every customer will find the right design for their taste, purpose, and budget.

And the beauty of natural stone from all over the world is available as a material for such diversity.

But won’t this destroy the exclusivity of natural stone and devalue the material?

Not at all. The gold and silver industry shows that it is possible to appeal to the infinitely large target group of lovers of beauty and value.

(08.01.2024, USA: 01.08.2024)