It always amazes me when I see small 2" x 2" stone samples in the office of the Architect or Interior Designer that they are using to select stone from for their projects. In some cases only one piece is provided to the subcontractors and suppliers to bid from. These small stone samples should not be used for bidding or purchasing purposes. They should only be used as a starting point in educating the Architect/Designer and client to the actual stone that is currently coming out of the quarry or material that may be in stock (in the case of tiles) in sufficient quantities for the project at a local distributor. If you do not have experience with the stone specified and know the actual range that will be produced by the quarry fabricator or local stocking distributor, if there is one, then you will inevitably contribute to a disappointing result for the Architect/Designer, Owner and/or General Contractor.
Research must be done by the subcontractor/supplier to determine the range of the specified stone that is available at the quarry for the quantities required for the project. At least 15 - 30 samples (12" x 12" minimum size), depending on the stone specified, should be presented to the Architect/Designer and Owner for approval. Many stone materials vary from slab to slab and block to block so an accurate representation of the actual range of material should be ascertained and submitted.
Take a look at the photo of the marble slab below (approx 50" x 70") and imagine a few 2"x 2" sample cut out randomly from any location. You can understand that if you were to supply 12" x 12" tiles cut from this slab that they would not match each other or the original 2"x 2" sample. You can see in the upper left hand corner of the photo, where I copied three small sections from the slab photo and aligned them next to each other, that if this slab were cut into small pieces and laid next to each other not many would match. Of course, the slab selected for the purpose of this example is not the best type of stone to be used for 12" x 12" tiles. Stone such as this that has heavy and varied veining, while beautiful in its own right, is better utilized in pieces that are as large as possible and are matched to adjoining slabs/pieces.
In many cases the 2"x 2" sample in the Architect's office does not represent the actual range of material that is currently available. It may have been on the shelf in that office for quite some time. It is prudent to provide current information regarding the stone specified to the Architect/Designer and also the prospective client prior to being awarded the stone supply contract. Unless you have received the 15 -30 samples you submitted back from the Architect, with a written approval of the range you are going to supply, you may be required to match the small sample that was sitting on the shelf in the Architect's sample room.
Let me know if this post was helpful in your understanding of the stone selection process. I would be interested in any of your experiences with stone selection and or purchase for your project.