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Different Surface Finishes on Marble/Limestone


Most people will be able to picture what a polished marble tile or an antiqued limestone tile would look like and some will understand what is meant by the term honed. But there are lots of other options for surface finishes on natural stone and some of these may not be quite so easy to imagine.

Some of the different options are explained below:


A high gloss polish is achieved by grinding the surface of the stone with a series of increasingly fine diamond grit pads or compounds. A final process using Oxalic acid or a crystallising compound is sometimes used to increase the mirror-like effect.

Marbles, granites and some of the harder, finer-grained limestones can be polished. This gives a smooth and reflective finish and brings out all the subtleties and beauty of the stone. The photo below shows the reflective nature of this polished Italian Statuario Venato marble.


A honed finish is created in a similar way to the polished finish above but the process stops with a coarser grade of grit.
This means that the finish is less glossy and reflective but still smooth and may have a small degree of sheen. Many of the quarries will alter the degree of honing to suit the customer’s requirements.
For example, if the tiles are to be used in an area where slip-resistance is important, we can ask for the stone to honed to a lower grit so that it is more matte.

The Nero Marquina black marble in the image is particularly good when honed. The detail of all the shells and fossils is brought out without the tile becoming too shiny.


Brushing is done, as the name suggests, by brushing the stone with steel or hard nylon brushes. It leaves a lightly textured surface that tends to be more resilient to scratches and marks. It works particularly well on limestone and some sandstones and can also be applied effectively to tumbled marble. The example below shows a brushed Spanish Limestone Cenia Cream, and demonstrates how the brushing adds texture by gently removing the softer parts of the stone leaving a rippled surface.


Tumbling is a common technique that involves distressing the edges and surface of the stone by vibrating the stone in a bath of sand and grit. Usually, the quarry cuts a tile to twice the required thickness and then puts the piece into the tumbling machine, resembling a large vibrating skip, for 10 to 20 minutes to take the sharp corners off. They then slice the tile in half to produce two tiles with tumbled face and edges. To further distress the surface, it can sometimes be given an acidic wash. The result is a finish that looks aged and worn. It is often used on limestone and some marble.


A flamed finish is created by passing an oxy-acetylene torch over the surface of the stone and then following it immediately with a cold pressurised jet of water to fracture the top surface of the stone. On some types of stone, such as limestone and sandstone (as in the photo below of the Italian Pietra Serena),
it gives a non-slip surface which is ideal for terraces or public paved areas. This is a specialised technique and not all quarries have this equipment in their workshops.

Flamed Marble1


Bush-hammering is done by hammering the stone with a series of steel points to break up the surface and create a pitted look. Similar to the flamed finish above, bush-hammering is a technique for creating highly slip-resistant surfaces. Like all the processes, it can be done to a greater or lesser degree.

It can also be used to recreate the look of a medieval finish, as though the stone had been chiseled by hand centuries ago. A final gentle brushing with steel brushes then gives it the “time-worn” look.

An Omani Limestone that has been bush hammered and brushed used as wall cladding for boundary walls and external facades of Villas.


Sandblasting is a technique that also gives a more slip-resistant surface
suitable for outside areas or for wet areas. This is used this on shower trays and wet-rooms and also on patios, as in the image below – sandblasted Italian Carrara marble set on Buzon pedestals. It is created by spraying the surface with sand, ceramic beads or other abrasive components at a high pressure onto the surface of the stone. This process tends to lighten the look of the stone and can mask the character by hiding the veins and shell fossils.


Honed and Pillowed edge:

Sometimes known as a cushioned edge, this is where the edges of the tiles are rounded to create the look of a well worn flagstone. The image below shows the same French Vallangis limestone as above but in fixed widths of 400mm and random lengths on the floor and Vallangis again for the staircase.

This is by no means a complete list and some of the applications I have described here are not typically seen here in the Middle East.

Credit to Steve Turner of Amarestone(for this posting)

Please reach out to me or any of our staff with any further questions. Feel free to visit us at the Middle East Stone Show or reach out on our website.