By: Jeffrey Matthews
Greece is located between the Ionia Sea and the Aegean Sea, and is
slightly smaller then Alabama. It is comprised of very mountainous
areas and lots of islands. The structure underlying Greece is "Marble".
The climate is mild and makes it a vacation paradise. The historical
landmarks make it necessary to visit from an architectural standpoint
and for general education. Greece rates highly on literacy at 95%
and is one of the highly advanced nations in the world, besides being
one of the oldest to explore marble.
The first marbleworks were started probably in the Cycladic islands
in the centuries of 3000 B.C.
Hellas is a celebration in word and picture of a beautiful, rugged
land, its diverse peoples of antiquity, and their unique civilization
which gave birth to the finest elements in our own. The story of
the ancient Greeks is known to most persons today in the form of
a few highlights: the Acropolis of Athens, the philosophers and
sculpture and playwrights of classical Greece, the precious heritage
of the Olympic games.
Marble contributes considerably to the mineral wealth of Greece.
Greece provides rare varieties of marbles which can scarcely be
found elsewhere and which have greatly contributed to the history
Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of white Pentelic marble
or the white marble of Zasteni Magnissia, or the bright-white of
Paros, known as "Lykhnitis" which were quarried and used by the
ancient Greeks and Romans, to create the masterpieces of sculpture
Pheidias, Hermes of Praxitelis and many others.
The exploitation of the Greek marble deposits goes back to the
sixth century B.C. They were among the first civilizations who noticed
the unique properties and uses of marble. The Greek marble coming
from the islands of Naxos and Paros in the Cicladi were commercialized
also in the Asia Minor, North Africa and at Rome.
In the Delphi area, the site of the sanctuary of Pythian Apollo
at the foot of Mount Parnassus is extremely impressive. Much of
this area was built with marble dating 4th to 6th century B.C. Parian
marble was used about 6th century B.C. as Ionic columns in the portico
of Athenians, a temple.
Sculpturing Schools flourished in this period and works of art
became second nature. The Greeks transformed marble into objects
of art never considered before and probably since. From other Greek
islands came the white marble which was sculptured for the famous
Winged Victory (305 B.C.) discovered at the Samothrace now conserved
at the Museum of Louvre in Paris.
From the ancient quarries of white marble in the mountains of
Penteli, Pentelico marble was used for the Parthenon, constructed
in 447-432 B.C., the Erechtheus and the Propylaea on the Acropolis
In the Kavala area, the white veined marble, which is still quarried
today, are in the remains of the ancient town of Philippi in Macedonia,
founded by Philippus II, father of Great Alexander.
Larisa, known as ancient green was used for the columns of the
ancient temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of
the World. These columns were later used for the construction of
the columns in the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, erected
in 350 A.D. and which now is a mosque.
The Romans favored the Cipollino marble quarried in Karystos.
Areas of Greece that produce are Drama/Kavala area well known
for its white and white-gray marbles; Ioannina for its beige; the
Argolis area for beige, brown, and red; the Attica area for white
Pentelikon and ash-blue marble; Crete for its greys; Naxos for the
whites; and Volos for the pinks; Attikai for Pentelikon & Agia Marina;
Evia Island for Cippolino and Red Eretria; Larissa for Verde Antico;
Argolida for Breccia and Red-brown; Arcadia for Black; Chios Island
for Brown; and Kriti Island for Onyx;As you can see the utility
of many parts of Greece are used for mining and quarrying marble.
The six main marble regions of Greece are Drama-Kavala-Thassos
which can be considered the Carrara of Greece.
Near Kozani and Veroia are well known whites and colored marbles.
Ioannina, for beige marble and similar to the Trani area of Italy.
The black marble of Farsala, the grey of Larisa, the white of
Volos, the rose of Pteleos Volos are among some extracted from the
Attica and the Pentele mountains for white.
(It should be noted that in the Athens area in 1976, a fall in
production of marble occurred due to the closing of some quarries
for environmental reasons.)
The Argolis region is the newest and one of the most dynamic areas
for extraction of beige, brown, and red marbles.
Many other areas have opened up such as Thrace, Crete, Lesbos
An abundance of marbles and limestones such as Cipollino of Evia,
the black rudist-bearing limestone of Vitina, the breccia of Mycines,
the multi-colored breccia fantasia of Syros, compete against the
colored marbles of other countries.
Probably the three most widely known marbles today in use are
Tinos Green, Pentelicon white, and Thassos White. They are very
Even though the Greeks have an ancient history and use of marble
the modern processing started in 1960. From that moment, the number
of quarries and marble cutting and process factories started to
increase and to be modernized with new and more modern equipment.
This was due to the tremendous increase in world building demands
and the growth of the rich oil bearing nations who wished to expand
their palaces and domiciles.
In 1983 Greece started a 5 year development plan that would triple
primary quarry production of marble and increase marble exports
by a factor of 10 by 1988. This program was established for the
expolitation of the marble bearing places, aiming at a higher primary
production and exportation. This was to include an intense exploitation
program of 12 specific marble-bearing areas. A 128 million dollar
investment, half for the production and half for the processing
At that time their primary exports were to the Middle Eastern
markets. The main Greek marble to be exported for years has been
Pentelikon, which was used to build the Parthenon and Tinos, a very
Green serpentine marble. Today they are also known for their white
from the island of Thassos, as well as pinks, greys, blacks, reds
etc. Greece has so many colors to select from that it would satisfy
most any architect or buyer. In most cases their marbles are more
true marbles then those of other countries claiming the softer limestones
as marbles. Thus the material lends itself for flooring applications.
Development of the stone industry over the last 20 years has created
a "new stone age". At production well over a million and a half
tons of marble, Greece has increased well over 10 times its production
in the last 20 years. Still, marble only accounts for 0.3 per cent
of teh total GNP and 0.9 per cent of the Greek exports. This is
due to the efforts made by the Associations, Government support,
Investors and marble factories, and of course the advancement in
marble production technology.
Stone has progressed from cubical, to thin panels. We have progressed
from 3/4" to 3/8" tiles, now to panels of 3-4mm thick with various
backings which can be used in elevators, furniture, raised floors
and other applications.
One only has to consider that out of all the countries which quarry
and use stones only 9 exceed the average annual production of one
million tons, a smaller quantity than the production in the Carrara
area alone. The total quantity produced by these nine countries,
Italy, Spain, Greece, India, Brazil, USA, Portugal, France, and
China, adds up to around 20 out of the certain 28 million tons quarried
throughout the world in 1990: equal to 70% of the total production.
The use of stone for claddings has and is currently undergoing
a great evolution too. From slabs directly applied to the structure
first with mortar and then with mechanical fixings to the creation
of prefabricated panels. In a very short time techniques have gone
a long way and precast panels have transformed from "strong back"
to curtain wall (a finishing module made of metalic structure, stone,
glass, insulating materials and interior finishings, ready to be
Material is being cut thinner and thus the demand for tile and
the affordability it gives, allows even the most conservative individuals
to afford it.
In 1990, the quarries of Greece produced over 1,800,000 tonns
of marble. The capability of Greece is to produce well over 2.5
million tons. The primary geological product of Greece is marble.
There are of 4000 companies in the stone sector, over 50,000 employees.
There are today well over 300 firms in the quarrying business. The
main professional institute or association is the Federation of
Association of Marbles of Greece, the Panhellenic Marble Association
in Athens, and the "Hellenic Marble" magazine. Other organizations
which professionalize this ancient trade are the Institute of Geology
and Mineral Exploration in Athens; H.O.M.M.E.H. known as Hellenic
Organization of Small and Medium Sized Industries and Handicrafts;
The Federation of Greek Marble; H.E.P.O., which is the Hellenic
Export Promotion Organization. This organization assist Greek exporters
to operate successfully in foreign markets through promotion and
advertising campaigns, market research and the arrangement of Greek
participation in International fairs and other events. They also
offer free services to commercial buyers visiting Greece.
If you have the opportunity you should visit Greece in April,
when normally the Hellexpo in Thessalonki is held. There you will
see many producers, fabricators, and artisans of marble. You will
have the opportunity to tour facilities and have a taste of history
in the landscapes of this beautiful country. As you know, the Greeks
are primarily a trading nation and very involved in shipping due
to this. The family is plays an important role in the culture of
Greece and its trade.
The second largest consumer of Greek marble is the USA. Greece
is the 3rd largest supplier of marble to the United States. Since
1988 the USA market has consumed 11% of their production. Greek
production has grown in this period about 86%. The USA maintains
a vital role in the consumption of Greek stone.
While the United States is a major producer of dimension stone,
Italy is the largest producer among the market economic countries.
It is interesting to note however, that in 1991, Italy imported
from Greece well over 18.5 million dollars, thus ranking it 8th
in importance of imports for Italy.
The imports to the USA grew from 1987 monthly figures of 800,000
monthly to 1990 figures of 2 million per month. Due the economic
conditions in the latter half of 1990, the 1991 figures have reduced
to about 1,300,000 per month on the average. It is interesting to
note that Greece had the biggest decline in imports of stone to
the USA by a drop of 35% in 1991 versus 1990. Greece today represents
about 6 to 7% of the yearly imports of marble to the USA, which
in the last decade has given them a substantial increase yearly.
Greece is number one in the world production per inhabitant at
396 pounds per person. This really shows the dedication to production
that the society and companies attribute to the importance of stone.
The next nearest is Italy which is 25% less.
Recently, the exportations of hellenic marbles have been considerably
increased, but still do not reach the real capabilities of Greece.
It is worthy to note that Greece has over 300 marbles but probably
only 50 are exploited. The pallet of colors available should satisfy
most any designer or architect.
The Greek stones are both competitive in price and quality with
the marbles of other countries. Quality is most important to the
Greeks and supported by the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration
and the Department of Industry Research and Technology which will
assist and test each marble that is commercially produced and make
sure they meet international standards for quality.
Most companies now have equipped themselves with the most modern
production facilities and have technologically advanced themselves
in quarry extraction, production, quality control with the current
world standards, sales and marketing. The factories can produce
objects of art, blocks, slabs, tiles, commercial jobs, sinks, decorative
items, columns, and many architectural items.
No one can deny that Greece has so much marble and potential new
marbles and quarries, that it will maintain itself as a key player
for years to come in marble production. As long as Greece maintains
there role in keeping up with modern technology, which for two millenium
they have, then we should consider Greece as one of the most important
suppliers in the world market of marble.
Greece, presently, is the 4th1 largest producer of marble in the
world. By the recent World Stone Industry report by the Italians,
it is noted that world consumption of marble will grow at an annual
rate of 6.5% per year to a level of about 51 million tons by the
year 2000 (a total of 40% growth in this decade. Present production
is 30 million tons.) Also, the the forecast for raw production of
marble will increase to a level of 60 million tons by the year 2000,
again a 40% rise.
Obviously, these figures could increase considerably if marbles
and stones continue to grow in popularity with architects and designers
as they have done in the past. Assuming Greece will maintain its
present position of production growth and sales, this will mean
a substantial boost to their economy and market.
Stone flooring will be one of the main increases. In the past
three years flooring demand has increased by about 33%. Architects
have and will be selecting granite over marble due to its durability
and sales efforts by the producers for commercial use. However,
marble can still play a most important role in this growth if properly
promoted and controlled. Marble is still predominant in the residential
market. By world figures, flooring is consumed at about a 34% rate
versus exterior cladding at 20%, its nearest competitor.
Since the United States has the second largest Housing Construction
market in the world (even though it declined 25% in the last two
years), the market potential for Greece and the United States in
marble is outstanding.
One can clearly conclude, that Greece has made history in the
past and will make it in the future.
Italy is first with 25%, Spain second 10.7%, China third with
6.7%, then Greece at 6%.