Slate: characteristics, types, colors and uses


Slate stone is a widely spread rock with a very ancient history. Who has never used the blackboard in school during the oral tests? Perhaps not everyone knows that it is formed by a stone slate slab, a particular black or dark gray rock, known in Italian language with the term “stone of Lavagna” (Lavagna is also the Italian word for blackboard). Furthermore, slate stone in Italian language takes its name from the beautiful coastal town of Lavagna, in eastern Liguria, located along the Riviera di Levante on the Golfo del Tigullio. Until the last century, this area was in fact a center of major marketing and extraction of slate stones.

Used today mainly for construction work, it is believed that natural slate stone was extracted for the first time over two thousand years ago, right in Liguria. The use of slate stone as a material to repair roofs and create coverings dates back to a period prior to Roman domination, perfected in the Middle Ages and massively used during the Renaissance for the construction of churches, cathedrals and numerous works of art.

Today, thanks to technological innovation and the renewal of tastes and fashion, slate stone is a rock that has forcefully entered the world of interior design, used to create shelves, benches, various ornaments; but also, for plates, cutting boards and other useful tools for the home and kitchen. In short, especially in recent years, slate stone has become very competitive for the creation of objects and as a construction and embellishment material, not only thanks to its elegant and refined appearance, able to give a touch of class to the furniture, but also thanks to its flexibility of use and processing.

Characteristics of slate

slate characteristics

Slate stone is classified in geology as a metamorphic rock of sedimentary origin. What does it mean? Basically, it is a particular variety of clastic-clayey schist called “marl” deriving from a mixture of clay and limestone of detrital-organogenic or chemical origin, according to the various portions.

The particular characteristic of black slate stone is fissility, i.e. the ability to divide easily into very thin, light and impermeable slabs thanks to the low-grade metamorphism process of sedimentary rocks (technically called semi-metamorphism or anchi-metamorphism), a phenomenon that occurred following the deposit of material of various sizes emitted by volcanic explosions whose fragments have followed more or less long paths in the air or along the slopes of the volcano, before settling on other rocks or in the sea. This is why slate stone, like other rocks of this type, are considered sedimentary even if the materials that constitute it are of igneous origin.

Belonging to the clayey rock family, natural slate stone is considered a soft or semi-hard rock, with extraordinary characteristics, in fact it is: resistant to fire, compression, shocks and bending (therefore perfect for making hobs for the kitchen or for covering the interior of a stove or a slate stone fireplace); it is not very porous and therefore waterproof (ideal for covering showers or for flooring), sandable, tough and resistant to atmospheric agents and finally has a low degree of expansion, thus making it non-deformable.

Slate stone is mainly composed of minerals such as quartz, illite and muscovite, combined with pyrite, biotite and hematite. From a chemical point of view, slate stone contains on average 60% silica, 15-20% alumina and the rest of it is made up of soda, lime and other elements.

With a beautiful dark texture, generally black or dark gray in color, black stone slate has a flat and smooth surface, slightly scaly, with a metallic or often silky sheen.

Slate colors

Slate stone is naturally a leaden colored rock, sometimes with tints tending to dark blue, or almost black. It tends to lighten when extracted due to the oxidation process of carbon residues in contact with the sun, humidity and oxygen, taking on a lighter color, becoming dark gray. Depending on where they were deposited millennia ago, the slates take on various colors: from lead gray, to purple, to bluish (blue slate stone) and dark green.

However, the typical color of the slate used in construction and furnishings is gray; in fact, there is also a color called “slate gray“: a shade of gray with light blue reflections.

Slate: uses

By virtue of the countless qualities and characteristics described above, slate is a rock that is particularly suitable in the construction field for the construction of roofs, slate stone flooring and external slate stone wall coverings. The thicker and longer slabs are used, on the other hand, for jambs and architraves; while the thinner ones are used to make steps, tombstones and slabs to cover showers. Slate stone boards are also used for many other things such as to create home furnishings such as plates and cutting boards or for ornaments of all kinds.

Slate shower tray

Among the many shower trays available on the market, one of the most valid options is undoubtedly the slate stone shower tray, which in addition to being of considerable aesthetic impact, giving the bathroom a touch of elegance and class, manages to perfectly combine aesthetics with resistance and durability over time. One of the main advantages of a stone slate shower tray is definitely its waterproofing as, as mentioned, this stone is naturally water resistant. The non-slip finish allows a suitable use in the bathroom avoiding dangerous domestic accidents. Another feature not to be underestimated is the simplicity in terms of maintenance: compared to other materials, slate stone can be cleaned very easily, thanks to its smooth and sliding surface. Furthermore, according to the finish it is stain-resistant, resistant to weight and high temperatures.

As for the price of a slate shower tray, it will turn out to be a more expensive option than ceramic or resin, by virtue of the numerous qualities and the fact that it is still a natural stone subjected to long extraction and manufacturing processes.

Slate flooring and tiles

Slate stone is an exceptional rock also for making slate stone tile and slate stone flooring for both interiors and exteriors. The watchwords are beauty and resistance: in fact, a slate stone flooring is not only beautiful to look at, elegant and perfect for creating both classic and modern spaces, but it is also a sturdy material, resistant and tenacious to impacts, breaks, cracks and scratches. The solutions for the outdoor spaces are numerous: in the garden you can opt for slate stone stepping stones or, likewise, for slate walkway stones. In addition to slate stone pavers, another wonderful solution is to realize a slate stone patio, maybe with a slate stacked stone wall.

In addition to being one of the most resistant materials in nature, slate stone, if properly sealed, is perfect for flooring in bathrooms and kitchens because of its long durability. As for the price of slate stone tile and floors, it depends on the size of the slate stone tile or slab.

Slate blackboard

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, slate stone is known for being the material that makes up the traditional blackboards used in school. They are generally composed of a large thin rectangular or square slab in black slate stone on which you can write with chalks but also with other materials.

Slate plates

slate plates

Slate stone is a non-toxic, heat-resistant material and for this reason it lends itself very well to making plates and cutting boards. The porous consistency, the exceptional resistance to high temperatures, the availability in various shapes and sizes and its undisputed beauty, mean that stone slate plates and crockery give an extra touch to the mise en place of a well-laid table, making it elegant, refined and fashionable.

Slate slab

Slate stone is sold in slabs of various shapes and sizes that can be used at home for design projects and to create custom-made slate stone flooring, cladding and much more thanks to its versatility, strength and aesthetic impact. Slate stones slabs can be processed to create surfaces for roofs, floors, baseboards and stairs, but also to create furnishing items such as shelves, tables and claddings (ex. slate stone wall) for kitchens and bathrooms. In short, slate stone slabs have a wide range of applications as they allow you to create unique and special style combinations, thanks to the perfect mix of charm, elegance and resistance.

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