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CUSTONACI, HOME OF THE PEARL MARBLE THAT IS “MADE IN SICILY”
When we talk about marble that is “Made in Italy”, we usually think about the Apuan Alps region of Tuscany. However, we have to go much further south to find one of the most highly prized marbles in the world, which is on a par with the celebrated "Carrara white". In the Custonaci area of the Sicilian province of Trapani, they quarry a marble that has always been used in sculpture and important architectural works. This Sicilian marble, varieties of which can be found in important architectural works of the past such as churches, cathedrals and palaces, features throughout entire periods in history.
From the very ancient quarries of Monte Cocuccio (on the northern slopes of Monte Sparacio) come "Libeccio”, a rare and precious marble that was used to ennoble the Basilica of Saint Peter’s in Rome and the Bourbon Royal Palace in Caserta; “Avorio Venato”, an ivory-coloured marble with a pink hue and golden veins; “Botticino”, light ivory in colour; and “Perlato di Sicilia”, light ivory with patches of pure calcite. In recent decades, pearl marble, the only variety still quarried in the Custonaci basin, has become increasingly highly prized for indoor applications and for extreme weather conditions - both as a covering material and for ornamental works - from Arabia to Canada and from Japan to Australia. It has even arrived in the USA: Custonaci marble can also be found in the Kennedy Center in New York.
Figures confirm the extraordinary success of this Sicilian marble variety on international markets: every year 350 thousand tons of the stone are shipped to the Middle and Far East, the USA, Canada and Europe. These exports are valued at 120 million euro. The stone quarrying centre of Trapani occupies a very important position in the world of Italian marble production, for it is Italy's third most important quarrying basin after Massa Carrara and Verona. It produces 15% of the nation’s marble and 85% of that of Sicily. There are about 300 firms working in the sector of which 120 are quarries, 80 are saw-mills and 100 are craft workshops, employing more than 3,500 people, apart from satellite industries.
Over the years, a fully-fledged industrial zone has grown up that features a high concentration of the various different activities involved in quarrying and processing high quality stone. It is fully integrated into the Sicilian marble and fine stone industry, which is characterised by a network of small and very small businesses closely connected with the quarrying sector as well as the processing and marketing network. Although the context has yet to be globalised, local governments and trade associations nevertheless are putting a lot of effort into organising initiatives and programmes to help it expand beyond the local sphere. An example of this is the 2005-2006 commercial agreements, which allowed the Pearl marble of Sicily into the Spanish market.