The first marbleworks were started probably in the Cycladic islands in the centuries of 3000 B.C.
Hellas is a celebration in word and picture of a beautiful, rugged land, its diverse peoples of antiquity, and their unique civilization which gave birth to the finest elements in our own. The story of the ancient Greeks is known to most persons today in the form of a few highlights: the Acropolis of Athens, the philosophers and sculpture and playwrights of classical Greece, the precious heritage of the Olympic games.
Marble contributes considerably to the mineral wealth of Greece. Greece provides rare varieties of marbles which can scarcely be found elsewhere and which have greatly contributed to the history of civilization.
Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of white Pentelic marble or the white marble of Zasteni Magnissia, or the bright-white of Paros, known as “Lykhnitis” which were quarried and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, to create the masterpieces of sculpture Pheidias, Hermes of Praxitelis and many others.
The exploitation of the Greek marble deposits goes back to the sixth century B.C. They were among the first civilizations who noticed the unique properties and uses of marble. The Greek marble coming from the islands of Naxos and Paros in the Cicladi were commercialized also in the Asia Minor, North Africa and at Rome.
In the Delphi area, the site of the sanctuary of Pythian Apollo at the foot of Mount Parnassus is extremely impressive. Much of this area was built with marble dating 4th to 6th century B.C. Parian marble was used about 6th century B.C. as Ionic columns in the portico of Athenians, a temple.
Sculpturing Schools flourished in this period and works of art became second nature. The Greeks transformed marble into objects of art never considered before and probably since. From other Greek islands came the white marble which was sculptured for the famous Winged Victory (305 B.C.) discovered at the Samothrace now conserved at the Museum of Louvre in Paris.
From the ancient quarries of white marble in the mountains of Penteli, Pentelico marble was used for the Parthenon, constructed in 447-432 B.C., the Erechtheus and the Propylaea on the Acropolis of Athens.
In the Kavala area, the white veined marble, which is still quarried today, are in the remains of the ancient town of Philippi in Macedonia, founded by Philippus II, father of Great Alexander.
Larisa, known as ancient green was used for the columns of the ancient temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These columns were later used for the construction of the columns in the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, erected in 350 A.D. and which now is a mosque.
The Romans favored the Cipollino marble quarried in Karystos.
Areas of Greece that produce are Drama/Kavala area well known for its white and white-gray marbles; Ioannina for its beige; the Argolis area for beige, brown, and red; the Attica area for white Pentelikon and ash-blue marble; Crete for its greys; Naxos for the whites; and Volos for the pinks; Attikai for Pentelikon & Agia Marina; Evia Island for Cippolino and Red Eretria; Larissa for Verde Antico; Argolida for Breccia and Red-brown; Arcadia for Black; Chios Island for Brown; and Kriti Island for Onyx;As you can see the utility of many parts of Greece are used for mining and quarrying marble.
The six main marble regions of Greece are Drama-Kavala-Thassos which can be considered the Carrara of Greece.
Near Kozani and Veroia are well known whites and colored marbles.
Ioannina, for beige marble and similar to the Trani area of Italy.
The black marble of Farsala, the grey of Larisa, the white of Volos, the rose of Pteleos Volos are among some extracted from the Larisa-Volos regions.
Attica and the Pentele mountains for white.
(It should be noted that in the Athens area in 1976, a fall in production of marble occurred due to the closing of some quarries for environmental reasons.)
The Argolis region is the newest and one of the most dynamic areas for extraction of beige, brown, and red marbles.
Many other areas have opened up such as Thrace, Crete, Lesbos etc.
An abundance of marbles and limestones such as Cipollino of Evia, the black rudist-bearing limestone of Vitina, the breccia of Mycines, the multi-colored breccia fantasia of Syros, compete against the colored marbles of other countries.
Probably the three most widely known marbles today in use are Tinos Green, Pentelicon white, and Thassos White. They are very versatile.
Even though the Greeks have an ancient history and use of marble the modern processing started in 1960. From that moment, the number of quarries and marble cutting and process factories started to increase and to be modernized with new and more modern equipment. This was due to the tremendous increase in world building demands and the growth of the rich oil bearing nations who wished to expand their palaces and domiciles.
In 1983 Greece started a 5 year development plan that would triple primary quarry production of marble and increase marble exports by a factor of 10 by 1988. This program was established for the expolitation of the marble bearing places, aiming at a higher primary production and exportation. This was to include an intense exploitation program of 12 specific marble-bearing areas. A 128 million dollar investment, half for the production and half for the processing and sales.
At that time their primary exports were to the Middle Eastern markets. The main Greek marble to be exported for years has been Pentelikon, which was used to build the Parthenon and Tinos, a very Green serpentine marble. Today they are also known for their white from the island of Thassos, as well as pinks, greys, blacks, reds etc. Greece has so many colors to select from that it would satisfy most any architect or buyer. In most cases their marbles are more true marbles then those of other countries claiming the softer limestones as marbles. Thus the material lends itself for flooring applications.
Development of the stone industry over the last 20 years has created a “new stone age”. At production well over a million and a half tons of marble, Greece has increased well over 10 times its production in the last 20 years. Still, marble only accounts for 0.3 per cent of teh total GNP and 0.9 per cent of the Greek exports. This is due to the efforts made by the Associations, Government support, Investors and marble factories, and of course the advancement in marble production technology.
Stone has progressed from cubical, to thin panels. We have progressed from 3/4″ to 3/8″ tiles, now to panels of 3-4mm thick with various backings which can be used in elevators, furniture, raised floors and other applications.
One only has to consider that out of all the countries which quarry and use stones only 9 exceed the average annual production of one million tons, a smaller quantity than the production in the Carrara area alone. The total quantity produced by these nine countries, Italy, Spain, Greece, India, Brazil, USA, Portugal, France, and China, adds up to around 20 out of the certain 28 million tons quarried throughout the world in 1990: equal to 70% of the total production.
The use of stone for claddings has and is currently undergoing a great evolution too. From slabs directly applied to the structure first with mortar and then with mechanical fixings to the creation of prefabricated panels. In a very short time techniques have gone a long way and precast panels have transformed from “strong back” to curtain wall (a finishing module made of metalic structure, stone, glass, insulating materials and interior finishings, ready to be installed.
Material is being cut thinner and thus the demand for tile and the affordability it gives, allows even the most conservative individuals to afford it.
In 1990, the quarries of Greece produced over 1,800,000 tonns of marble. The capability of Greece is to produce well over 2.5 million tons. The primary geological product of Greece is marble. There are of 4000 companies in the stone sector, over 50,000 employees. There are today well over 300 firms in the quarrying business. The main professional institute or association is the Federation of Association of Marbles of Greece, the Panhellenic Marble Association in Athens, and the “Hellenic Marble” magazine. Other organizations which professionalize this ancient trade are the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration in Athens; H.O.M.M.E.H. known as Hellenic Organization of Small and Medium Sized Industries and Handicrafts; The Federation of Greek Marble; H.E.P.O., which is the Hellenic Export Promotion Organization. This organization assist Greek exporters to operate successfully in foreign markets through promotion and advertising campaigns, market research and the arrangement of Greek participation in International fairs and other events. They also offer free services to commercial buyers visiting Greece.
If you have the opportunity you should visit Greece in April, when normally the Hellexpo in Thessalonki is held. There you will see many producers, fabricators, and artisans of marble. You will have the opportunity to tour facilities and have a taste of history in the landscapes of this beautiful country. As you know, the Greeks are primarily a trading nation and very involved in shipping due to this. The family is plays an important role in the culture of Greece and its trade.
The second largest consumer of Greek marble is the USA. Greece is the 3rd largest supplier of marble to the United States. Since 1988 the USA market has consumed 11% of their production. Greek production has grown in this period about 86%. The USA maintains a vital role in the consumption of Greek stone.
While the United States is a major producer of dimension stone, Italy is the largest producer among the market economic countries. It is interesting to note however, that in 1991, Italy imported from Greece well over 18.5 million dollars, thus ranking it 8th in importance of imports for Italy.
The imports to the USA grew from 1987 monthly figures of 800,000 monthly to 1990 figures of 2 million per month. Due the economic conditions in the latter half of 1990, the 1991 figures have reduced to about 1,300,000 per month on the average. It is interesting to note that Greece had the biggest decline in imports of stone to the USA by a drop of 35% in 1991 versus 1990. Greece today represents about 6 to 7% of the yearly imports of marble to the USA, which in the last decade has given them a substantial increase yearly.
Greece is number one in the world production per inhabitant at 396 pounds per person. This really shows the dedication to production that the society and companies attribute to the importance of stone. The next nearest is Italy which is 25% less.
Recently, the exportations of hellenic marbles have been considerably increased, but still do not reach the real capabilities of Greece. It is worthy to note that Greece has over 300 marbles but probably only 50 are exploited. The pallet of colors available should satisfy most any designer or architect.
The Greek stones are both competitive in price and quality with the marbles of other countries. Quality is most important to the Greeks and supported by the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration and the Department of Industry Research and Technology which will assist and test each marble that is commercially produced and make sure they meet international standards for quality.
Most companies now have equipped themselves with the most modern production facilities and have technologically advanced themselves in quarry extraction, production, quality control with the current world standards, sales and marketing. The factories can produce objects of art, blocks, slabs, tiles, commercial jobs, sinks, decorative items, columns, and many architectural items.
No one can deny that Greece has so much marble and potential new marbles and quarries, that it will maintain itself as a key player for years to come in marble production. As long as Greece maintains there role in keeping up with modern technology, which for two millenium they have, then we should consider Greece as one of the most important suppliers in the world market of marble.
Greece, presently, is the 4th1 largest producer of marble in the world. By the recent World Stone Industry report by the Italians, it is noted that world consumption of marble will grow at an annual rate of 6.5% per year to a level of about 51 million tons by the year 2000 (a total of 40% growth in this decade. Present production is 30 million tons.) Also, the the forecast for raw production of marble will increase to a level of 60 million tons by the year 2000, again a 40% rise.
Obviously, these figures could increase considerably if marbles and stones continue to grow in popularity with architects and designers as they have done in the past. Assuming Greece will maintain its present position of production growth and sales, this will mean a substantial boost to their economy and market.
Stone flooring will be one of the main increases. In the past three years flooring demand has increased by about 33%. Architects have and will be selecting granite over marble due to its durability and sales efforts by the producers for commercial use. However, marble can still play a most important role in this growth if properly promoted and controlled. Marble is still predominant in the residential market. By world figures, flooring is consumed at about a 34% rate versus exterior cladding at 20%, its nearest competitor.
Since the United States has the second largest Housing Construction market in the world (even though it declined 25% in the last two years), the market potential for Greece and the United States in marble is outstanding.
One can clearly conclude, that Greece has made history in the past and will make it in the future.
Italy is first with 25%, Spain second 10.7%, China third with 6.7%, then Greece at 6%.