Everything You need to know about Travertine

Everything You need to know about Travertine

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  Natural Stone


The word 'travertine' is derived from the Italian travertino, itself a derivation of the Latin tiburtinus ‘of Tibur’. Its namesake is also the origin of Tivoli, a district near Rome Travertine is one of numerous natural stones that are used for pavement  of patios and garden paths. It is sometimes known as travertine limestone or travertine marble; these are the same stone, although travertine is classified properly as a type of limestone, not marble. The stone is characterised by pitted holes and troughs in its surface. Although these troughs occur naturally, they suggest signs of considerable wear and tear over time. It can also be polished to a smooth, shiny finish, and comes in a variety of colors from grey to coral-red. Travertine is most commonly available in tile sizes for floor installations.

Travertine is one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture. It is commonly used for façades, wall cladding, and flooring. Some  of  its qualities are:

  • ABRASION (The  ability  of  a material to  resist  surface  wear) :- Thus  material has  relatively  high  abrasion resisitance. Its rates  as  a  7 or  higher  in  the  Mohs  scale. Quatzite  or  granite  typically  fall  into   this  range. This material   is  less likely  to  scratch THAN  MARBLE, LIMESTONE  , ONYX, SLATE, ETC

  • ABSORPTION ( The  relative  porosity  of  a  material ):- This  material  has  a   low  to  moderate  absorption  rate. Always  seal  this  material  prior  to  use. To  reduce  the  appearance of  stains,  always  wipe  up  spils  immediately. Oil  and  highly  pigmented  liquids  can  penetrate  and  stain  the  stone  and  may  need  poultice  to  remove  stain.

  • ACID  (The   likelihood  of  a  material  reacting  to  acidic  foods  or  liquids) :- This  material  is  minimally sensitive  to  acids. It will not  acid  etch  or  lose  its  surface  shine when  expised to  acidic  liquids  such  as  lemon  or  tomatoes.

  • FREEZE  THAW (The  ability  of  a  material  to  withstand  freeze-thaw  cycles  in  exterior  applications) :- Due  to  known  material  weakness  or  because  this  material has  not  been  tested, this material  is  not  approved  for  use in exterior  applications.


It is a natural sedimentary rock that is most often found in Italy but travertine deposits are also common in Turkey, Mexico, Peru, Croatia, Iran and even China. It is also found in the USA but most of the material used there is imported. The quality and characteristic of travertine differ depending on the region of its origin due to the different geology there.  

Formation of Travertine 

Travertine is a terrestrial sedimentary rock with crystalline-texture and is composed of calcite (CaCO3), which is form of a limestone deposited by hot mineral springs. It is formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals and its porosity is due to the presence of organisms such as macrophytes, bryophytes, algae, etc. Its natural colour is white but travertine is also found in tan, creamy or rusty varieties. The red colour of travertine and its different strength is due to the presence of iron carbonate. This natural stone is mostly formed at the mouth of hot springs or in limestone caves, where it forms different speleothems  (cave formations), such as stalactites and stalagmites.

Travertine Qualities and Usage  

One of the most unique and ideal features of travertine is its weathered and rustic look, which makes it the great stone if you want to re-establish romantic atmosphere at your home. As it is a porous stone, travertine tiles are offered in two variants – filled and unfilled. The filled ones are smoother, more durable and have a more modern look compared to the natural porous ones. The finishing of the tile is also important as it highlights one or another quality of this excellent material. There are usually four types of finishes that are applied to travertine – honed, polished, brushed and tumbled.

  • Polished travertine is bright and shiny and very smooth. It will reflect light in amazing way and sometimes it is even mistaken for marble with this finish. One of the drawbacks is that such tiles are quite slippery especially when wet.

  • Honed travertine, on the other hand, is the most preferred option both for floor and counter top tiles. The surface is still polished but not to a glossy bright extent but left matte and is non-slippery. This type of finish is closer to the natural look of the stone.

  • Tumbled and brushed travertine look a lot alike. The tiles with such a finish have muted colours and almost doesn't reflect the light. Tumbled travertine has a distinctive weathered and antiqued look.  

Since Ancient times travertine is being used as building material and a lot of amphitheaters, aqueducts, baths, etc. were made of it. An excellent example of the longevity of the stone is the Coliseum, which is the biggest building made almost entirely of travertine. Other famous buildings and structures include the Colonnade of St. Peter's Square in Rome, the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris and many others. Even Michelangelo chose travertine for the external ribs of the dome of St Peter's Basilica. In modern history travertine is also used for construction and outer layer of famous buildings some of which are the Shell-Haus in Berlin and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. As a contrast to the magnificent buildings comes yet another usage of travertine – as a stone for beautiful jewelry. It can be turned into amazing pendants, bracelets, necklaces, etc. Some modern artists also turn the stone into beautiful sculptures that interact with the environment.  

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