The 2023 Marble fair in Izmir (Turkey), held from 26 to 29 April, was a visual spectacle, a feast for the eyes of the natural stone lover, or even those who have nothing to do with the industry. Turkish companies have vastly improved their ability to project their stones( mostly marble) in the most favourable manner, with bigger size samples, combinations, incorporating designs and experimenting with new textures. Moreover, the country seems to have an inexhaustible supply of aesthetically pleasing stones of the widest possible varieties.
It was not just the striking stands displayed by exhibitors, though- the number of visitors probably exceeded all expectations, with large numbers of people inside the pavilions from the very first hour of the show everyday. They came from just about everywhere- the blocks buyers from China and India, the buyers of semi-finished and finished stones from the countries in the Gulf region and in North África and East Asia, they came from Europe and USA.
In any other year the fair would have given the impression of a Turkish natural stone industry going through a phase of explosive growth. But here is the tub of cold water thrown from above to bring a dose of reality. Ask a simple question: "What percentage of what was on display in Marble fair 2023 can be copied by the porcelain industry?" 90%? 95%? It is certainly a very high percentage. Because what can be copied, will eventually be copied by the new generation of porcelain industry, if it is worth copying for commercial reasons. By harnessing their superior marketing and distribution muscle, the new generation porcelain industry will then likely end up taking a significant market share in applications and market segments that were previously the exclusive preserve of natural stone.
The existential threat now facing a major part of the stone industry from the artificial copycat industry means a completely new set of applications must be developed, a completely different approach to the business must be adopted.
This search for new ways of growth has actually started, and there were enough examples of that too in the fair. Below are some images of the more prominent designs and applications on display in the fair- those that cannot be easily copied.
Inspired by the mosaic of Dionysos and Ariadne from the 2nd-3rd centuries BC in the Archaeological Museum of Hatay.