Of all the varieties of marble, Calacatta is one of the most sought after. It is known for its subtle grey veining contrasted by an almost pure white background. In recent years, Calacatta marble has been gaining popularity as a hard surface for the home and has been the number one requested countertop material, (at least in Southern California, where I live). As much as I always say that I would always go natural over man-made surfaces, I am finding that advances in technology are making it difficult not to choose a stone alternative. When I first started seeing Calacatta lookalikes, they either looked very pixelated or lacked depth, and could never pass for the real thing. Nowadays the alternatives look just as good as natural Calacatta – but with so many other positive qualities, that it is hard to not go with a copycat.
The number one complaint of natural stone is maintenance. As beautiful as it is, one must be aware of the maintenance that is required to keep it looking its best. Because Calacatta marble is a naturally porous surface, it needs to be sealed regularly. Even with regular sealing, it is prone to etching when exposed to any acidic substance, such as vinegar, orange juice, and ketchup. Exposure to these products will strip the polish and cause the surface to dull. I have also discovered through my own experience that natural marble or stone is not the ideal surface for someone with OCD tendencies, like myself.
So what do I recommend in place of natural Calacatta marble? Earlier this year I attended KBIS – the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, where I was able to compare my findings. Here are my 3 picks of ways to achieve the same look but without the maintenance and unnecessary stress – all of which are excellent solutions, where both form and function are met.
Calacatta Gold – Silestone Eternal Series
Silestone is natural quartz surface that is non-porous and stain resistant. The veining seen in Silestone’s Calacatta Gold runs through the entire body and thickness of the slab, so you are not limited to only straight edge profiles, and curved, bullnose/ogee edge profiles are possible. Although Silestone’s Calacatta Gold is offered in a polished finish, I prefer their “suede” finish, as I live in a busy household of boys, and I love how the suede finish hides fingerprints and smudges that occur throughout the day- perfect for a rambunctious household. With a polished finish (especially in a dark color) I find myself constantly with spray bottle and towel in hand, when a cocktail in hand is what I’d really like to have…
The Calacatta Gold “suede” finish has a matte texture soft touch finish, that has a nice, subtle sheen that is most prominent when viewed at an angle. It is highly resistant to stains and does not have the maintenance issues that natural stone has, which means that you don’t have to worry about the guests spilling ketchup or lemonade on the countertop.
Calacatta – Neolith Classtone
Neolith Classtone’s Calacatta has a bright yet warm, creamy white ground, with an evenly distributed grey veining and subtle hints of gold. The pattern only occurs on the surface, so only straight or mitered profiles are possible. Like Silestone, Neolith is available in other finishes, but I prefer the Silk finish, which is matte with a slight sheen. The light enamel finish allows for easy cleaning and the surface has a nice touch with a very subtle tooth.
What is Neolith made of? It is sintered stone – 100% natural raw materials that are subjected to high temperature and pressure, and digitally printed to mimic the natural veining that occurs in Calacatta marble. With digital printing, two different looks can be achieved with the veining when installed- a book match and an end match.
Neolith is also resistant to stains, scratching, can withstand extreme low and high temperatures, does not fade or deteriorate when exposed to UV rays, and is resin-free. The surface is so hard, that you can cut directly on the Neolith surface – as long as a ceramic knife is not used. (their demo video has a chef cutting directly on the countertop without any problem) I also love how beautifully it plays with a natural wood finish – especially how the warmth of the wood brings out the subtle gold accents in the veining.
Make note that Neolith offers two types of Calacatta – “Calacatta” and “Calacatta Gold”. I prefer Calacatta – C01 as the veining is a little bit more sparse and looks more like the veining that the other lines offer. Calacatta Gold tends to have a much busier pattern with more gold.
Unique Calacatta – Compac
Compac’s Unique Calacatta has a “Glacé” finish, which is currently the smoothest, most silky matte finish that I have seen – and felt. The surface looks and feels like a surface that has just been sanded with the finest grit sandpaper – just on the verge of a high polish. Compac sure delivers with this product – beautifully warm veining that is so natural that it takes a very close inspection to realize that it is engineered and not a natural occurring marble surface. To the touch, it feels like a smooth silky satin. The surface is resistant to stains and scratching, but cutting directly on the surface is not recommended and it cannot be used outdoors and should be shielded from UV rays. The near-zero porosity and compact structure make it impervious to water and dirt. I had just put hand cream on and my hands were a little bit greasy when I touched the surface, and it left a hint of greasy finger print, but with the fine, silky surface that is almost to be expected. I would imagine that the maintenance for Compac’s Unique Calacatta is slightly more involved than the other two surfaces, but the beauty of the smooth Glacé finish makes it worth it.
Moreover, the fine texture and lack of “tooth” in Unique Calacatta reflects light in much the same way a polished surface would but with a much more diffused effect.
The three alternatives to Calacatta marble I have mentioned in this post are all viable options in the kitchen, bath, or other areas of the home, but what you ultimately choose should depend on your own personal preferences and what is important to you – whether something other than a straight or mitered edge is for you or the fact that you cannot live without being able to cut directly on the countertop surfaces. These are all factors that need to weigh in on your final decision.
A countertop is a large investment, so choose wisely!