Most strictly defined, cobblestones are rounded, water-worn stones used to pave streets. They were traditionally set in sand and sometimes bound with mortar. And there were many advantages to using them. Cobblestone streets did not develop ruts, nor did they get muddy or dusty, like dirt roads. Sand-set cobblestones make a permeable and “flexible” road surface; they don’t crack with movements in the ground due to freezing and heaving. Cobblestones are noisy, though, which would seem a terrible disadvantage, but the clatter of hooves and cars over cobblestones does warn pedestrians to make way.
Cobblestones eventually fell out of favor for quarried granite setts, or Belgian block, which are relatively regular, rectangular stones laid out in a pattern. These made for a much smoother and safer ride than cobbles in the 19th century and are what most people refer to as “cobblestones” today.
Cobblestones have their place in modern applications today. They’re used in restoration, of course. But they are often used in new city plazas, parks, and malls as a stand-out design element. That design influence has even reached residential driveways and patios. With this growing market, both salvaged and new cobblestone materials can be found now with increasing ease and decreasing expense.