There is a great diversity of stone in France, and the country is renowned for its heritage in stone and stonework. The technical characteristics and aesthetics determine a stone’s use as either masonry, decoration, indoor or outdoor stone.
Today, this industry represents around 500 actives quarries ,where 550 000m3 are extracted each year in blocks, mainly French limestone and granite which make up 95% of the production.
You can distinguish 6 different categories of French stone: Limestones, granites, sandstones, marbles, lavas and slates. Limestones and granites alone represent 74% of the quarries and 98% of the total volume quarried.
The French limestone quarries are mainly situated in 6 different regions: Burgundy, Languedoc, Provence, Aquitaine and Picardy. Each year, there 418 000m3 are quarried in France.
There is a whole spectrum of characteristics and colour available in French limestone.
As an example , The Loire Valley is famous for its numerous Tuffeau quarries, which yield a very soft limestone going from yellow hue to slightly blue. It was used to build most of the famous Castles of the Loire Valley.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can find the Jura limestones which have similar characteristic to marble with a density of 2700kg/m3.
Between these extremes, you can find the golden stones of Burgundy which are considered as firm to hard. The white and opened limestones of Provence ( Baux de Provence), or the soft creamy French limestone of the West.
The granite quarries are situated in Brittany and Pyrenees ( 122 000 m3 each year), and the sandstone in the Vosges( 12 900m3 each year).
Granites are made of 3 minerals: quartz, biotite and feldspar. Feldspar is the mineral which gives its colour to the granite. It can be pink, blue-green, grey or yellow. These stones are mainly used for paving and in the funeral industry because of their resistance to erosion and to the weather.
Sandstone is only quarried in 18 quarries all localised in the North East( Vosges). It is a sedimentary stone constituted of grains of sand and a silica or carbonated matrix. They vary in size, homogeneity and colour of the sand particles. It is often pink in the Vosges but can push to the yellow-orange tone.