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The History and Properties of Marble

November 01, 2021

The History and Properties of Marble

Marble has been the premier building material for many of the most notable architectural projects throughout history, from Ancient Greek statues to Renaissance Cathedrals to Charles De Gaulle International Airport floors in Paris. You may already know that marble has a natural association with luxury and tradition because of its raw beauty and delicate veining. When you walk into a hotel lobby clad in marble tiles, you immediately notice an air of elegance and a legacy of success - the use of marble for your project can bring this same atmosphere into any space. We've provided a closer look at marble so you can learn more about this highly coveted stone.

Marble is composed primarily of calcite (a crystalline form of calcium carbonate). The calcite crystal is vulnerable to attack by mild acids, including those commonly found in kitchen and bar settings. Marble is, therefore, more susceptible to staining, acid etching, and scratching. Still, experts will tell you that these accumulated changes (known as a “patina”) only add another layer of beauty and history to the stone.

For many people, the first color that comes to mind when thinking about marble is the iconic white Carrara marble from Italy; however, marbles are quarried worldwide and are available in an unrivaled selection of varying colors and patterns.

The Danby marble quarry in Vermont is the oldest operating commercial quarry in the United States today. It produces some of the densest marble, making it ideal for kitchens and outdoor applications. This marble has been used in the United States Supreme Court building, Arlington National Cemetery, and, more recently, the Detroit Institute of Art.

Marble is available in many finishes, the most common of which are polished or honed, although more rustic or antique finishes are also available. The reflective gleam of light off a polished marble floor creates a refined look and a classical elegance that is always in style. In contrast, honed marbles offer a slightly more relaxed feel with a matte finish that softens their impact while retaining their sophisticated style. Meanwhile, tumbled or brushed marbles provide a rustic look reminiscent of ancient architecture.

Marble is a relatively soft stone. On the measurement of hardness scale (MOHS), marble is approximately a three out of ten. Marble consists of calcium, just like your teeth. If you eat something too hard, you will break your tooth. If you eat a lot of sugar, you will get a cavity. Stone reacts the same way. If an improper chemical is applied to the surface, corrosion will form holes in the stone. Softer stones would require a less active chemical and a more frequent dust mopping program.

Country of Origin

Marble is sourced worldwide; however, most marble is quarried in India, Italy, Spain, and China. Some Italian stones are shipped to China by way of block for cutting into field tiles and mosaics – so even if your stone is “Made in Italy” it may be well-traveled. Here are the country origins of popular marbles.

  • ITALY: Bianco Venatino, Bianco Carrara, Calacatta, Statuario
  • CHINA: Angel White (Wall Street White from J. Court), Asian Statuario, Arabescato Calacatta Chablis (Bianco Goia),
  • TURKEY: Crema Nova, Arabescato, Van Gogh Collection

Will we run out?

Remember: Marble is more porous than granite and more susceptible to staining and scratching. Some require special setting materials: Dark Green can curl, White can yellow, etc.  Always check with the stone supplier recommended setting materials and approval for specific applications!

In the quarries of Carrara, the heart of Italian white marble and origins of the Roman Empire, people question the sustainability of extracting blocks of this profound marble. Geologists have tried to answer this question and have concluded that the natural Marble Column starts at about 1,300 meters from sea level and ends at about 800 meters below sea level– a total of 2,100 meters (over 6,500 feet). So, this tells geologists that for the next 2,000 years, we will have marble sufficient to beautify our homes, streets, and public buildings.

Why Marble?

Even a single piece of marble can be considered a unique piece of art. The piece of stone you choose will be unique. No one will be able to repeat it, copy it, and only you will have the privilege of owning it.

Treated Marble

Due to the popularity of marble in kitchens, some slab suppliers have started to offer limited options of marble that have been pre-treated. The process varies depending on the supplier, but generally, marble goes through being “sealed,” allowing the stone supplier to offer a limited warranty on the stone. Ask your local supplier if they have this treatment available.

 


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