Throughout history, people in positions of power have come up with some pretty cool ways to parade their wealth and creativity. Be it the invention of lawns or extravagant parties, the frivolous consumption of exotic and scarce resources has served as an effective and enduring display of status and influence. Now in modern times, many people can afford smaller versions of these historical power trips (see: Thanksgiving dinner). The use of Granite and Marble is a perfect, yet ironic example of this pattern playing out. You see, before it was fashionable to install Granite in your bathroom or Quartz kitchen countertops, it used to be that Granite and Marble were the ultimate status symbol, used to construct some of the most grandiose and elaborate structures in human history. Before we get into what’s changed (and what hasn’t), let’s run through 5 of the Most Extravagant, and BIGGEST examples of natural stone displays in the world:
1. Mount Rushmore
Constructed between 1927 and 1941 to increase tourism in the region, Mount Rushmore sits over a mile above sea level and is one of the most iconic Granite monuments in the world. Four of the most famous characters in American history are immortalized in 60 foot tall heads chiseled out of a mountain chosen for having the hardest Granite around, and they attract over 2 million visitors every year. You could say that Rushmore is the face of Granite monuments in the world today.
2. The Colosseum
Originally built to seat up to 80,000 people, the Roman Colosseum isn’t made of Granite or Marble, but it is comprised of two other types of natural stone: Travertine and Tuff. Travertine is technically a limestone, with major deposits found near hot springs. It used to be utilized in every facet of Roman buildings, but today it is mostly placed in wall facades and flooring because it can be polished to a smooth, shiny finish like Granite, Quartz, or Marble. Tuff is a rock that forms when volcanic ash consolidates together. The fact that it appears commonly in Italy has made it an ideal construction material dating back to the Romans. Tuff is made from ash, which comes from lava, which comes from the rock deep below the volcano. So because different volcanoes are made of different types of rock, Tuff can vary greatly in its composition.
3. Great Pyramid of Giza
Originally 481 feet tall and comprised of almost 2.5 million blocks of Limestone and Granite, the Great Pyramid would have been a miracle of innovation for any era, let alone 4,500 years ago! Amazingly, the stone used in the Pyramid was cut to almost the same level of precision afforded by modern cutting technology! We cut slabs weighing upward of 1,000 pounds and drive them around on trailers within 80 miles of our shop, but the Great Pyramid used Granite blocks weighing up to 80 tons (160,000 pounds) each, being transported to the jobsite from up to 500 miles away. How did they do that?!
4. Brihadeshvara Temple
Built around the turn of the 11th century, this Hindu temple is roughly 790 feet East to West, 400 feet North to South, and at its highest point it is almost 210 feet tall! Clearly this would be a massive structure to build out of any material, but what if I told you this temple is actually a sculpture, carved out of a single humongous piece of Granite? Well, it’s true, and it took fewer than 10 years to carve start to finish! Unlike the Pyramids, whose construction remains a mystery to this day, we know exactly who was the chief architect and engineer behind the Brihadeshvara Temple: a man by the name of Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Rama Perunthachan.
5. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal might look like a palace, but its true function is much more solemn. This oversized centerpiece of a 42-acre complex was originally intended as a tomb for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife: Mumtaz Mahal. It took 12 years to build this massive mausoleum, and it was finished in 1643 at an estimated cost of 32 million rupees, which in today’s money is a stunning $827 million!! One reason it cost so much: the entire building was made out of white marble, and inlaid with semi-precious stones. No wonder it attracts nearly 8 million visitors a year and was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The people of immense power who funded and masterminded these wondrous structures chose natural stone not only for its beauty and structural integrity, but also for its capacity to stand the test of time. Be it in Granite, Limestone, Marble, or Travertine, these gaudy price tags and mysterious creatives have stood tall and strong; proof of sound investments more than of frivolous construction projects. Nowadays homeowners make a substantially more humble and affordable decision when they choose to put natural stone in their own homes, but the benefits haven’t changed at all. Granite kitchen countertops, Quartz bathroom vanities, and Cultured Marble shower walls are all examples of elegant, practical, and enduring assets that are sure to retain their value over time!