Polished porcelain stoneware: purchasing guide

Polished porcelain stoneware: purchasing guide
Luxury interior showcasing Elements Lux collection's Port Laurent marble-effect porcelain stoneware flooring, accented with brown leather furniture and gold details.
elements lux port laurent

When we apply technological innovation to interior design, the result is an outstanding product like polished porcelain stoneware, fully devised and manufactured in Italy. 

Polished marble-effect porcelain stoneware is derived from selected raw materials and an on-going search for natural inspirations and thrilling contemporary atmospheres. The application of modern technology to the ceramic sector allows for an improvement and enhancement of natural marble, thanks to the added value brought by porcelain stoneware in terms of resistance, hygiene and easy maintenance.

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Marble in Italy’s architectural and cultural history

Marble was widely used in Roman constructions, to build arches, temples and columns, and for decorations. "Marmor lunensis", or white Carrara marble, was especially popular due to its rich, distinctive details, and was used for the bas-reliefs of Trajan’s Column and the decorations on the Arch of Constantine.

In the homes of the late-Republican Roman aristocracy, marble was an indication of prestige and wealth, and was widely used for interior décor features, such as the marble inlays on the floors of the most important rooms.  

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the marble was re-used by the Popes and the noble classes to embellish their churches and palaces, and the ruins of ancient Rome were used as a sort of luxury quarry. Portasanta marble, considered the main symbol of the Rome of the Popes, was used to cover the jambs of the Holy Door in the major basilicas of the city. 

One of the most emblematic constructions of Rome, the Colosseum, was originally covered with marble, statues and decorations. When the structure was abandoned, the marble was used to build papal palaces and numerous churches throughout the city.

During the Middle Ages, marble maintained a leading role in art and architecture, especially in the Christian cathedrals. The famous Cosmatesque floors, first created in Italy between the 12th and 13th centuries, are emblematic of this period. These works of art, created by the Cosmati family and by other Roman marble workers, used ancient materials in creative combinations to shape extraordinarily beautiful, elaborate floors. This period was also characterised by an innovative re-use of ancient marble, not only for financial reasons, but also for the purposes of artistic expression, transforming the grandeur of ancient Rome into new, Christian forms. Marble thus remained an essential material for both ecclesiastical and secular constructions, testifying to the continual evolution of art and architecture through the centuries.

Polished marble-effect porcelain stoneware: technology of the past and present

The industrial production of ceramics, which began in the 20th century, sought inspiration from marble right from the early days, for a product that – despite all the technological limitations of the time – resembled the natural material it was inspired by, as well as offering interesting technical performance. 

The early ceramic products were double-fired glazed tiles, decorated by hand or screen-printed, in sizes no larger than 30x30 cm. The polished effect was created with the application of a transparent vitreous glaze. 

The first significant technological progress was obtained with the production of “full body” porcelain stoneware, which allowed the surface of the material to be developed and polished like a marble surface, obtaining a glossy effect. The finish on the ceramic product thus came to closely resemble natural polished marble, although it was still not possible to obtain the patterns of the natural material.  

The step that enabled the production of porcelain stoneware with an appearance comparable to that of natural marble was the advent of digital ceramic printing. Inkjet technology allowed for an increased variety of graphics, for an appearance that was increasingly close to a high-resolution photograph of the marble of inspiration. Surface processing technologies were honed, polishing was replaced by lapping, and an increasing variety of sizes began to be produced. 

It is in this last step that the latest significant technological progress is most evident. Mouldless, or continuous, pressing has made it possible to overcome the limits of traditional sizes and thicknesses, creating a completely new market section: large slabs with surfaces of up to 180x360 cm and thicknesses ranging from 3 to 30 mm.

These developments have allowed marble-effect ceramic surfaces to emulate the appearance of natural marble, while continuing to guarantee incredible technical performance.

Let’s learn the differences between lapping and polishing

Both processes involve the removal of material from the surface. 

Initially, full-body decorated stoneware was first polished, removing a significant amount of material. This process, known as calibration, sought to make the tiles perfectly flat, so they could be polished further with the lapping process. 

Increasingly large tile sizes and more modern manufacturing techniques have made it possible to obtain material that is already very flat, so that the calibration process can be skipped, moving directly on to lapping the crystalline matrix; this process is much more superficial and less invasive. 

These processes can result in a product surface that is – albeit minimally – more porous, and thus more delicate than a traditional matt product. 

The top Italian brands in the sector, such as Ceramiche Keope, always carry out significant finishing treatments following the lapping process. 

Immediately after processing, the material is pickled to protect it from subsequent attack from acid substances, and any porosity is filled using a colloidal silica top coat, which is conveyed in a solvent and closes the pores opened up during the lapping process; when the solvent evaporates at 70°C, it stabilises on the bottom of the pores and seals them, so that they cannot attract other material in future and cause unpleasant streaks to form.

These pickling and top-coating processes are essential to improve both the resistance and the appearance of the polished material, enhancing the sheen of the surface and making it last longer. 

This is why it’s important to choose the manufacturer very carefully when purchasing lapped (or polished) porcelain stoneware.

Wall adorned with geometric marble-effect porcelain stoneware tiles in Breccia Tortona from Interno4 collection, complemented by modern sculptures.
interno4 breccia tortona

The advantages of polished porcelain stoneware 

Polished porcelain stoneware offers a perfect combination of technical performance and style, making it the ideal choice for a variety of uses in both homes and public and commercial buildings.  

Keope flooring and coverings in polished marble-effect porcelain stoneware are easy to clean, non-allergenic and maintain their original colour and appearance over the years.  

This durability, teamed with the extensive research invested in textures and colour compositions, enables polished porcelain stoneware to respond to a wide range of design requirements on the part of professionals and architects. 

Each feature of the appearance of marble – and of stone, wood, concrete or resin – is replicated and enriched with technical and eco-friendly features, both of which are essential for any contemporary design project.

Polished porcelain stoneware: elegant and unique

Let’s now take a step into the sophisticated world of the polished marble effect, one of the most popular trends in interior design. In this section, we’ll be explaining how well this  material adapts to a variety of settings, both residential and commercial, enhancing each one with a wide range of colours and patterns. 

In addition to the polished finish, Keope marble-effect tiles also come in Matt and Silk finishes.

Elements Lux collection's Lincoln marble-effect porcelain stoneware floor, scattered with vibrant, multicolored marbles.
elements lux lincoln

Elements Lux collection in the colour Lincoln

In the Elements Lux collection by Ceramiche Keope, the colour Lincoln stands out for its crystal-clear sheen and elegant grey veining patterns that cross the white surface like delicate silk threads.

Sophisticated Ombra Moca marble-effect porcelain stoneware flooring from the 9cento collection, paired with bronze furnishings and pink velvet details.
9cento Ombra Moca

9cento collection in the colour Ombra Moca

The 9cento collection, in the Ombra Moca shade, blends magnificently with modern, luxury décor, offering a sophisticated contrast with metal furniture and a velvet seat, perfect for high-end commercial settings or exclusive residences. 

Patchwork of colorful marble-effect porcelain stoneware from the 9cento collection, Metamorfosi variant, with modern furnishing details.
9cento Metamorfosi

9cento collection in the Metamorfosi variant

The hallmark of the Metamorfosi variant in the 9cento collection are the geometries that create a vibrant, unexpected, eye-catching interplay of shapes. This bold design choice is suitable for contemporary living spaces, where the art of flooring plays a key role. 

"Chic wall featuring Ombra Moca marble-effect porcelain stoneware from the 9cento collection, with designer chair and modern accessories.
9cento ombra moca

9cento in the colour Ombra Moca 

In this version, the 9cento collection, in the colour Ombra Moca, offers a deep, dark backdrop that looks fabulous in a sophisticated living space with a minimalist style. The white veining patterns enhance the modern design, while the furniture and furnishing accessories stand out distinctly against the luxurious, contemporary background. 

MatchApp: view and choose your perfect polished porcelain stoneware

To complete our overview of polished porcelain stoneware, we recommend the innovative view of your setting offered by MatchApp. Just a few moves are all it takes to explore a variety of tile options and watch them transform your living spaces in real time. This tool will not only help you choose the product best suited to your needs, but also makes for a more immediate, engaging design experience. Try out MatchApp and start turning your vision into reality.

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