AskDefine | Define travertine

The Collaborative Dictionary

Travertine \Trav"er*tine\, n. [F. travertin, It. travertino, tiburtino, L. lapis Tiburtinus, fr. Tibur an ancient town of Latium, now Tivoli.] (Min.) A white concretionary form of calcium carbonate, usually hard and semicrystalline. It is deposited from the water of springs or streams holding lime in solution. Extensive deposits exist at Tivoli, near Rome. [1913 Webster]



  1. Any of several light, porous forms of calcite deposited from solution; found most often as stalactites and stalagmites.
  2. A similar form of calcium carbonate used as a facing material in building.
Travertine is a sedimentary rock. It is a natural chemical precipitate of carbonate minerals; typically Aragonite, but often recrystallized to or primarily Calcite. Basically calcium carbonate is deposited from the water of mineral springs or rivulets saturated with calcium bicarbonate. The spring water can either be hot, warm or cold. The amount of deposits may increase with the waters temperature or when biotic material accelerates the precipitation.


When carbon dioxide-rich water percolates through rocks in limestone areas, the water dissolves the limestone (typical karst process) and becomes saturated with it. When the environment the water runs through, changes significantly (ex. drop in pressure and/or change in temperature) this causes the water to release the carbon dioxide as gas, much like fizzy drinks. The calcium carbonate then recrystallizes; small debris, scrub and living biotic material like (moss, algae, Cyanobacteria) are encrusted. The biotic material may survive and continue growing on top. Rich deposits of aged, dried and hardened travertine have already been mined by the Romans. The rock typically remains quite porous with numerous cavities. When exceptionally porous it is known as "Calcareous Tuff" (German: Kalktuff). When pure and fine, travertine is white, but often is brown to yellow due to impurities (other than carbonate minerals).


Extensive deposits exist at Tivoli, Italy, near Rome. In fact, travertine derives its name from this town. Tivoli was known as Tibur in ancient Roman times. The ancient name for the stone was lapis tiburtinus meaning tibur stone, which has been corrupted to travertine.
Detailed studies of the Tivoli travertine deposits revealed diurnal and annual rhythmic banding and laminae which have potential use in geochronology .
In Central Europe's last postglacial palaeoclimatic optimum (Atlantic Period, 8000-5000 B.C.) huge "Calcareous Tuff" of karst spring deposits formed. Important geotopes are found at the Swabian Alb, mainly in valleys at the foremost northwest ridge of the cuesta, in many valleys of the eroded periphery of the karstic Franconian Jura, at the northern Alpine foothills and the northern Karst Alps. On a smaller scale these karst processes are still working. Travertine was a very important building material for housing and representative buildings since the Middle Ages.
Travertine has formed 16 huge, natural dams in a valley in Croatia known as Plitvice Lakes National Park. The travertine clings to moss and rocks in the water, and has built up over several millennia to form waterfalls up to 70 m in height.
Other beautiful cascades of natural lakes formed behind travertine dams can be seen in Band-i-Amir (Afghanistan), HuangLong Valley (Sichuan, China), Semuc Champey (Guatemala), and Pamukkale (Turkey). Many geyser fields also have colorful travertine deposits.
The largest building in the world constructed largely of travertine is the Colosseum in Rome. Other notable buildings using travertine extensively include the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. The travertine used in the construction was imported from Tivoli. The website of the Getty Center contains more information about the use of travertine in its construction, including some videos of travertine being quarried and cut for use. The stone is most widely used in Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Travertine is one of several natural stones that are used for paving patios and garden paths. It is sometimes known as travertine limestone, sometimes as travertine marble; these are the same stone, even though it is neither limestone nor marble. The stone is characterised by pitted holes and troughs in its surface. Although these troughs occur naturally, they suggest to some eyes that considerable wear and tear has occurred over many years. Some installers use a grout to fill these holes, whereas others leave them open — travertine can even be purchased "filled" or "unfilled." It can be effectively polished to a smooth, shiny finish and comes in a variety of colors from grey to coral-red. Travertine is most commonly available in tile sizes for floor installations.
Travertine is one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture, and is commonly seen as façade material, wall cladding, and flooring. Architect Welton Becket was one of the most frequent users of travertine, incorporating it extensively into many if not most of his projects. The entire first floor of the Becket-designed UCLA Medical Center has thick travertine walls.
There are two or three small travertine producers in the western United States. U.S. demand for travertine is about 0.85 million tonnes, almost all of it imported. Most of the imports come from Turkey, Mexico is next, then Italy, and then Peru. A decade ago, Italy had a near monopoly on the world travertine market.


  • Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., Wiley, p. 496 ISBN 0-471-80580-7

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travertine in Czech: Travertin
travertine in Danish: Frådsten
travertine in German: Travertin
travertine in Spanish: Travertino
travertine in Esperanto: Travertino
travertine in French: Travertin
travertine in Galician: Travertino
travertine in Italian: Travertino
travertine in Lithuanian: Travertinas
travertine in Dutch: Travertijn
travertine in Polish: Trawertyn
travertine in Portuguese: Travertino
travertine in Russian: Травертин
travertine in Slovak: Travertín
travertine in Finnish: Travertiini
travertine in Swedish: Travertin
travertine in Chinese: 石灰华
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