Cutting-edge technology and stone production techniques are enabling manufacturers to thinly slice semiprecious stone and create mineral-imbedded quartz for use in luminous countertops with a resounding wow factor.

The Spanish firm Cosentino creates countertops from semiprecious stones such as amethyst, labradorite, rose quartz and jasper -- some of which can be backlit for a rich, glowing effect. The countertops, available in 1.25-inch slabs, are handcrafted because of each stone's value and uniqueness, said Lorenzo Marquez, vice president of marketing. Part of the Prexury line, the counters retail for about $385 a square foot and can be seen in the company's Sterling showroom.

With new quartz manufacturing technologies, Cosentino can integrate up to five colors into its quartz-based Silestone. The colors and mineral effects available in Silestone countertops vary from shimmering, gold-flecked whites to an exotic granite look, and the company launches six to 12 new styles or colors yearly, Marquez said.

"The beauty of quartz is its ability to reinvent itself," he said. "It can adjust to current design trends."

Cosentino's SenSa line, which includes granite, marble and quartz, offers a water- and stain-resistant, chemically bonded coating and 15-year warranty.

New technology also allows fabricators to more efficiently turn granite slabs into countertops, mantles, bars and bathtub surrounds with fewer seams and flaws.

Euro Stone Craft in Herndon invested in technology that streamlines its slab design and production, providing more accurate quotes and ordering for customers.

The company uses digital measurement technology that combines calibrated cameras and computer-aided design software with a computerized numeric code machine, once used solely to make precision aircraft parts.

"You program the [computer numerical control] machine with a precise digital template to cut to 1/1,000-inch accuracy," said Shawn Daghigh, a partner and vice president in the firm. He said custom countertops fit perfectly, veins match up, and seams are smooth and inconspicuous.

The process is environmentally friendly because it consumes fewer natural resources. Natural stone has flaws and diverse veining, so when cut by hand, most kitchens require two to three slabs, Daghigh said.

"This technology is still in its infancy. It started just two years ago, so it's literally a cutting-edge technology," he quipped.

Euro Stone Craft also uses water-jet technology to carve curves, enabling it to add designer edges and cut round sinks or faucet holes. It recycles all of its water.

The software takes the guesswork out of matching granite or marble because people see exactly how the countertop will look, before it is cut, as a vivid image on a computer screen, Daghigh said. "You're happier with it at the end of the day. You don't have to hold your breath. You get what you ordered."