Stone Fireplace surrounds that come in 2 types :
(1) Solid Stone ( either Sandstone, Granite, Marble or Limestone )
(2) Pre-Fabricated casts from reconstituted stone
When fitted, from a distance it can be difficult to tell the difference, but upon close examination it is clear if a firepalce is made from solid hand carved stone or from cast reconstituted stone. Natural Hand Carved Fireplaces are built up in sections of solid stone that have very small mortar joints and each sectuion of stone has its own unique grain and colouration not obtainable in cast product.
The cheapest firepalces are the pre-fabricated cast models which typically sell for under £200. They tend to be much lighter weight but are not suitable for solid fuel / open fires. These types are ideal for gas / electric fires and for decorative purposes only.
It is impossible to buy a carved firepalce that has been machine made. All carved fire surrounds are carved by hand due to the complex design of the fireplaces. For a truely dignified room only a solid sandstone fireplace should be fitted allowing for a traditional open fire to be used. Solid stone firepalces typically range between £500 and £5000. Those found in High Street retail shops being the most expensive. Massive savings can be made by buying solid stone fireplaces through ebay. They are the same product, thousands of pounds less than those on the High Street.
Dont be put off by the massive weight and higher prices of a solid stone fireplace. They are in fact easy to fit and are in the long term a better proposition. If you want to add value to your home, investing in a solid stone fireplace is a wise decision. Solid stone fireplaces can be fitted by any sensible DIY'er in less than a day.