Which stone to use for Roman mosaics

If you’re cutting your own stone and want to make replicas of Roman mosaics then these are the stones that I use. They’re listed in order of preference. This list isn’t exhaustive and I do have a nose around the tile shops to see what they have. One thing I do lok for is a good, constant supply. As I’m supplying customers with tesserae then I need to be able to get more of the same colours. I’ve found in the past that if I keep picking up all the odds and sods then it’s not long before I get a lot of baskets of random colours.

My main colours are, black, odd white, light and dark red, yellow and green, with these you can make up a lot of the patterns. You only need other colours when you start figural/floral mosaics.

Names; I use the standard industry names wherever possible

Off white – Botticino, Biancone, Crema Marfil (C.M. can be a little on the dark side so check the batch).

Black – Black marble, not that often available but a lovely pure black and it cuts like a dream. Toros Black and Nero Marquina are the 2 you see most often but these both have white veins in. I do like using the Toros Black sometimes as it has a slightly ‘dusty’ look to it even when waxed so it looks worn. Don’t buy Nero Assoluto, it’s sometimes advertised as a marble but this is black granite and very hard to work.

Light red – Rojo Alicante, Rosso Asiago

Dark red – Rosso Laguna, (Turkish stone and not easy to find), Rosso Levanto (does have a lot of white in it)
Light yellow – Yellow travertine, as it’s a travertine the surface is pitted so will take up the grout in places.
Dark yellow – Giallo Reale, a good stone but can be quie dark.
Green – They come in all different names, Verde Guatamala is the most common but can be quite dark and not good next to black. I’ve seen something called Teos Green but I think that’s a made up name. The best is to look at the batch for the lighter shades.
Dark brown – dark Emperador, doesn’t cut too well so make sure you have a sharp blade so less of it crumbles.
Light brown – light Emperador! There are loads of light browns around mostly though they’re travertines.
Light grey – Bardiglio
Blue – Originally they used Lapis lazuli but it’s a bit pricey to put that on a floor so there are a number of composite stones, (bits of onyx held together by hard resin). The blue is quite nice though and once cut and with the non polished side waxed it has a nice matt shade.
Once cut the surface that has had the blade pass over it will have a ‘whitish’ look. Stone colour enhancers and standard stone wax will bring the colour back on most of the stones but not on black. The best I’ve found is Linseed Oil Wax, usually used for wood. If you can’t get a supplier there are videos on YouTube which show you how to make some up.

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