Parisian streets have been paved with stones since the 12th century, and while asphalt now covers large swaths of the city, the cobblestones still adorn squares, boulevards, and alleyways. For years as the city dug them up (about 10,000 tons a year) to continue building or repaving, it paid to haul them to the dump, reports the New York Times. No longer. It finally occurred to officials last March to salvage these rare gems of Parisian history and sell them to contractors so that they'd have "a second life," say the head of the city maintenance yard that stores them. "They are cheap and have some charm," he tells Bloomberg.
In September, one enterprising woman bought five tons for $215 and set up a souvenir shop of sorts, where her team polishes, weighs, and hand-paints the stones. She sells them online for between $60 and $160, plus $15 to $40 in shipping fees. Tourists from as far afield as China and Oklahoma have paid for what entrepreneur Margaux Sainte-Lagüe calls enduring little pieces of history. (Not bad, considering the stones are worth maybe 8 cents as raw material.) For her, they bring a bit of nostalgia, reminding her of when youth threw them at police during national strikes in 1968. (This happened in 1848 as well.) Even the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has one of her decorated stones, notes Architectural Digest. (Paris is designating a wooded area for nudists.)