Scottish stones hit the headlines!

Those who watched the Winter Olympics from Russia, and celebrated the silver and bronze medals won by our curling teams, may not realise the importance of an export from north of the border. It comes from the island of Ailsa Craig, some ten miles off the mainland in the Firth of Clyde.

For the fifth time running, Kays of Scotland, a family owned business based in Ayrshire, won the contract to supply the curling stones to the Winter Olympics. The company has the lease for removal of the unique granites found on the island, formed by volcanic activity some 60 million years ago.

The body of the stone is made from Ailsa Craig Common Green granite - this is a micro-granite and can absorb the impact of hitting other stones without damaging the striking band - most other granites are made of quartz rich granite and would very quickly break up during play. The running edge of the stone (the part that is on the ice) is an insert made from Ailsa Craig Blue Hone granite - see the photograph. Again this is a micro-granite but denser than the Common Ailsa Green variety. Due to its unique composition, it is one of the hardest granites that can be found and it does not take up a lot of moisture. That allows it to run on modern ice for many games without needing servicing.

Before being sent on their way, the curling stones underwent rigorous three month trials in Scotland and then further trials at test events in Sochi. According to Kays website - www.kaysofscotland.co.uk/news.php - “to great acclaim from all competitors!”

The site has an interesting video showing the island and how the stones are made.

An intriguing news-snippet on the site suggests that there are rumours, circulating in North America, that supplies of the world beating stone are running out. Supported by photographic evidence of recent extractions, Kays are delighted to inform the curling fraternity that they have unlimited supplies!

Article by Bill Gloyn with thanks to Bill Hunter, Factory Manager of Kays of Scotland, for his help and the photographs.

John Wilson | 24/02/2014 00:00:00