We import all of our slate from a single producer in Brazil, from a small town called Papagaios which is in Minas Gerais state, a couple of hours' drive from Belo Horizonte.
We’ve seen Papagaios change dramatically over the years, from our initial experience in the roofing slate industry. We vividly remember tales of there being just one phone box in town in the late 1980s and they managed to become a major global exporter of slate products in the subsequent decades.
Slate production in Papagaios started in the early 1980’s when they principally produced just sheets of slate for the snooker and pool table industry. They produced vast amounts of slate for the domestic market but rarely exported at that time, until the introduction of roofing slate in the early 90s as production and communication became considerably more sophisticated.
An overview of the current quarry where our graphite slate is extracted, this one filmed in June of 2019.
Today’s slate production is state of the art and can rival any producer around the world for its sophistication.
There are basically two types of slate being produced in Minas Gerais, the graphite and the grey/green. Like all quarries, you get seams of different shades, some darker, some plainer but definitely every piece is unique.
We’ve included a couple of short videos on this page which our good friend Luciano the quarry owner took for us. Here you can see the scale of the particular quarry being used at present and an idea of how the slate is cut with road saws into the enormous sheets it starts off as. From those scales they cut into manageable sized pieces for their various uses, whether they end up as a slate hearth, a roofing slate, floor tile, window cill, work surface or a house sign. Or whatever you want.
This shows the quarry base being cut with road saws, to create the first version of a slate “blank” which will then be cut and split down for its own particular end-use product.
Brazilian slate wants to come out of the ground in big flat, straight thick sheets, which is unlike most slate production in every quarry we’ve ever seen around the world. This makes it ideal for a ... hearth!
This last video shows a close-up of the individual “blanks” being extracted from the quarry floor; each of these pieces will weigh in excess of 250kg. These are then cut down for their specific requirements.
As the first layer is removed you can see “clean” slate underneath it. This video demonstrates how ideal our slate is for use as a hearth as it’s so uniform and flat.
After being shipped from Rio, they arrive in containers either at Bristol or Tilbury.
All our slate hearths are custom cut either at our main stonemasons in Cumbria or at our yard in Blackburn.
We keep stock of a range of slate “blanks” at both so we’re usually in a position to cut and finish your hearth within about a week. We personally supervise the selection of pieces of slate along with the cutting, finishing, sealing and packing of virtually every hearth which goes out, to destinations across the country.