Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I walked into my favorite greasy spoon and was just getting ready to sit down for a cup of joe when my phone rang. Flo gave me her patented, “You’re always on your dang phone” look. I motioned to her to please pour me a cup as I walked outside, so as to not disturb the regulars, and I mean that. I really hate it when people talk on their phones loudly in a public place so everyone can hear their conversation.

“Stone Detective,” I said as I answered the call.  The lady on the other end started telling me how her husband had ruined her marble bathroom vanity. She was angry and obviously venting, and I could hardly get a word in. She went on and on of how he slides his razor and shaving cream across the top. She complained that he splashes his aftershave all over the top and doesn’t clean it up. Finally, she pleaded with me to find a solution to this. 

Well, my first thought was to tell her he should grow a beard and that would solve that problem, but I held back.  I proceed to ask her how old the countertop was and for a description of the damage.  She told me it was only a year old.  I told her she should call a restoration contractor and have it repolished, and possibly have an anti-etch coating put on it. She insisted that I come over and look at it. I tried to tell her to send me a pic or two and I could tell her what needed to be done, but she said that wasn’t good enough. She told me that I must come see it. So, I told her what I would charge her to look at it, figuring she would think it was too much, but NOOO, she was willing to pay my fee. So, I told her I could come over later that morning.

I ended the call and went back inside as Flo was pouring out my cold coffee and getting me a fresh cup. “Sorry!” I said and she just shrugged her shoulders and gave me a “whatever” look.  I finished my breakfast and headed out the door, on my way to Mrs. Messy Husband’s house.  I have been in this industry for over 40 years, and it still amazes me what some people think constitutes a stone emergency. 

I pulled up to the lady’s house, which was in a very expensive neighborhood. The house looked more like a hotel resort than someone’s home. The driveway was paved in granite pavers, and it seemed a mile long. The driveway alone was probably close to a million dollars, not to mention the marble sculptures lining the drive, that would rival the sculptures at Caesars in Las Vegas. I pulled up to the front of the mansion and a dark-haired lady came running out. She was dressed in a long gown and an apron, and at first I thought she was the maid. She ran up to me as I was getting out of the ole Woody and said, “Thank god you’re here, I can’t look at this vanity any longer!” Hopefully she realized I was only there to look at it, not repair it. 

cultured marble vanityShe led me in the front door and we walked this long hallway filled with paintings that could be hung in the Louvre.  We walked up a broad staircase and she led me into the master bath. She pointed to the vanity and told me that her beautiful Italian marble was ruined. I thought she was going to cry.  I took one look at the vanity and was about to tell her something that would make her cry even more. 

Before I broke the news to her, I asked her how she knew it was marble from Italy. She told me she bought it off of a dealer who told her it was imported from Italy. Oh dear, it’s worse than I thought, I said to myself. I took a deep breath and braced myself for her reaction: this is what I told her.  “I’m sorry to tell you that this is not real marble. This is what they call cultured marble. It’s basically marble dust and resin that is poured in a form and shaped.” I told her it might be able to be cleaned up, but I would recommend that she replace it with the real deal.  I could see the tears well up in her eyes, and then she said, “So, I have a marble Imposter?” I told her that was correct, and imposter was pretty accurate. She thanked me, wrote me a check and I was off. 

Folks, in my experience this is not uncommon. Over the years I have seen many stone imposters and today there are more and more materials that do a great job of mimicking stone, and even this expert can have a hard time telling them apart. Another case solved.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Fred has also been writing for the Slippery Rock for over 20 years. 

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