Among the variety of natural stones used in dimensional applications, travertine is unmatched in creating an aura of subtle beauty and refined elegance.
A specialized limestone, travertine is formed by the compression of sediment deposits in fresh water hot springs. The geologic processes that create travertine leave a signature of voids and ripples that, when cut into slabs, offer unique visual effects.
Travertines come in an array of hues, ranging from the warm creams of Navona and Saturnia to the rich golden almond colour of Noce (nut) travertine. More dramatic are the fiery red oxides of Persian travertine, and the variegated inflections of charcoal and sea foam in Silver travertine. Each stone offers a visual appeal that is fresh and contemporary, and yet evokes the passage of time with the graceful and undulating layers of matter deposited over ages.
Travertine is a versatile design medium, as it presents contrasting visual statements when
• fleuri (cross) -cut or
• left with voids (“unfilled”), or
When travertine is fleuri-cut – that is, cut parallel to the sediment bed – slabs appear to have a bloom of colour, suggesting the movement of clouds or sand under waves. When travertine slabs are “vein” cut (cut perpendicular to the sediment bed), two contrasting effects may be achieved. Filling the voids (air pockets) enhances the natural patterning and colouration of the stone, creating in effect, a solid slab. Travertine prepared in this manner is advised for use in applications with water.
Unfilled travertine has a delightful effervescence, as the surface texture of the slab is punctuated by voids and tonal contrast. The experience is one of lightness and porosity and will uplift any architectural setting.
In Italy, unfilled travertine is the vernacular building material in Rome and Tivoli, and is seen in numerous applications, including pavements, building facades, columns, and architectural ornaments. This widespread use of travertine in exteriors is appropriate in warm climates. In the sub-zero winter conditions of Toronto, by contrast, travertine is primarily recommended for interior use and especially for ornamental applications. Travertine’s porosity makes it a visual delight and consequently, makes it best suited for decorative and light domestic use.
As a sedimentary stone that does not benefit from the forging processes of pressure and temperature that marbles and granites undergo, travertine is best treated with care, as it is prone to etching and scratching. Travertine serves wonderfully as a wall cladding, powder-room vanity, fireplace surround – all contexts where heavy use and staining potential are minimal. Of note, a honed travertine floor is a great non-slip pavement, where wear and tear over years soften the appearance and patinate the stone. What travertine lacks in relative durability, it more than compensates for in its nuanced and exquisite beauty.
The care of travertine is straightforward: keep clear of acids and sharp objects, and maintain with a cleaner specifically designed for natural stone, such as Sparclean. An annual re-sealing programme is generally recommended, however, it should be tailored to the specified product in question.