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Going to pieces over our Lebanese marble mosaics

How we saved money when we bought our mosaics

Mosaics add a real finishing touch to our paving - well, that's my opinion. When I was a child, I remember watching the opening sequence of 'I, Claudius' where the viper slithers across a mosaic of a Roman head and thinking how much of an improvement it was on our impoverished floor covering.

So, having decided we wanted mosaics - both on our floor and our wall, we turned to the internet to see what was on offer. We found a company in the UK who were prepared to deliver to Italy and whose selection and prices seemed reasonable so we ordered two circular mosaics - one compass for our long room, and one of fishes to go above the internal swimming pool. What I specifically liked about the mosaics was that they were made from Lebanese marble - a very high quality marble with delicate shades.

I should add that it is perfectly possible to buy mosaics locally (they make them just up the road in Assisi) but they are more expensive, made from local marble (as opposed to Lebanese) and also tend to be more 'religious' than I would care to have in my home. Decision made - order online.

I confess that I am always more than a bit concerned about having anything to Italy from outside of the EU (having already had bad experiences with things not arriving from the United States) but this was going via the UK (with the consequential addition of VAT) therefore there was no local duty to pay and little to interest the Italian Customs officers in. At least so we thought.

We asked the UK company to expedite the order as fast as possible because our Italian tile layers would need to be laying the mosaics within a week or two. They were very helpful and promised us a delivery two weeks ahead of normal. What I didn't know was that to do this, they had to short-cut the UK end and the delivery would be coming to us direct from the Lebanon.

We were surprised, therefore, to receive a call from Italian Customs asking us for our Codice Fiscale (kind of Social Security number) to guarantee payment of duty on the mosaics. We made a quick call to the UK company and they agreed to waive the equivalent portion of the VAT thus meaning we would not be paying two lots of tax from two different countries.

The courier struggled to our door with the two mosaics and we carefully unpacked them. The bad news was that, as we had expected, Italian Customs had had a field day tearing them open and, as a result, there were pieces missing. The good news was that the Lebanese company had kindly included some spare sticks of marble in anticipation of just such a calamity.

As I said, I had been pleased with the price quoted to us by the UK company but, in view of my incurable curiosity for such matters, I looked up the site of the Lebanese manufacturers to see what their prices would have been. I was astounded to see that their floor and wall marble mosaics were about 20% of the price of what the UK company charged. Given how pleased we were with the first two mosaics, my wife and I dug deep in our pockets and decided to buy 6 more - two very large ones for our terraces, and four smaller ones to go on a wall.

I negotiated a price with the Lebanese company which effectively meant the not insignificant delivery charge was waived and I was quoted 3 weeks for manufacturing and delivery. There is no way we could have afforded these if we had paid the UK company their commission. The mosaics arrived just over 3 weeks later along with a bill for the duty from Italian Customs. As expected several of them looked like they had been savaged by underfed sniffer dogs but, now knowing the routine, soon repaired them and they now sit proudly around the house and on our terraces.

This was money well-spent and we are very pleased with our mosaics.

Lebanese Marble Mosaics

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All material copyright of Clive West and Damaris West 2007 - 2018 and not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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