How a 17th Century Gold Rush Created a 21st Century Global Industry

Brazil, in the late 17th century, suffered years of economic struggle and chaos following wars against Spain and the Netherlands. Then, in the 1690s, gold was discovered, and a gold rush brought prospectors from all over Brazil as well as from Portugal seeking their fortune in the heart of Brazil. As gold continued to be discovered and mined, a huge influx of Europeans came to find their fortunes.

Mineral Rich Environment

Over time, other minerals of value were discovered in Brazil, and its mining industry thrived. Even today, Brazil is a major source of the world’s supply of iron ore, tin, gemstones, bauxite, manganese and gold.

Development of Stone Quarries

In the 18th century, stone mining became part of the Brazilian economy, but it was only in the 1970s that it became an industry of note. Italian immigrants discovered deposits of beautiful white marble near Cachoeiro de Itapemirim. These Italian emigres brought with them the knowledge of mining – from mining Italian marble – along with equipment, experience and craftsmanship. As the marble industry established itself in Brazil, others began exploring for new stone deposits.

World Leader in Stone

By the 1990s, Brazil had a large and experienced workforce in the natural stone industry and in addition to the marble quarries, there were granite and quartzite quarries. During this time, the technology to cut and process stone was being advanced around the world, and speeding up the mining process increasing productivity in the mines.

Despite an economic crisis in the 1990s, with a talented and experienced work force, state-of-the-art technology, and an abundance of stone resources, Brazil’s natural stone industry rebounded quickly, and Brazil became the largest stone exporter in the world.

Dedication to the Country and the Craft

Today, Brazilian marble, quartzite and granite are its best-known stone exports. Brazil exports 60-70% of the world’s granite. The varied landscape, terrain and climate of Brazil make for beautiful and unique colors but also for challenging mining. So how, in this challenging environment, did this become a major industry? A dedication to the craft and pride in being Brazilian. Whether from a small coastal quarry or a huge mountainside operation, the mines are responsibly and sustainably run by experts in the field. Production is controlled and conservation laws are enforced to make sure the environmental impact is minimal, and that the quality of the final product is exceptional. Competition also helps keep the Brazilian stone market on its toes. “Innovations in stone technology and machinery are still led by Italy, Pat Byrne, Owner and Vice President of Boston Granite Exchange, tells us, “but Brazil is quick to catch up and put pressure on Italy, which keeps both countries at the forefront of the industry.”

Beauty from Brazil to Your Home

The unique and beautiful colors of Brazilian natural stones are a must-see as you get your kitchen renovation started. Visit to explore examples of marble, granite, quartzite and soapstone from Brazil. Use our worksheet to make notes and narrow down you favorites by stone and by color.

Then plan a visit to see the stones on your list up close. As you browse, you’ll notice that the country of origin is listed on the ends of each stone slab, making it easy to identify the Brazilian stones. Boston Granite Exchange offers a wide selection of natural stones and quartz from around the globe, and we’re sure you’ll find a stone that is just right for your style and your new kitchen.