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Marble:Perfectly Polished Stone

By Kate Parrott

marble

For centuries, marble has been used as a timeless stone to reflect wealth, luxury, class and status. Its beautiful polish is still evident today in the Parthenon, in Michelangelo's famous sculpture of David, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and through countless other buildings and monuments worldwide.

Marble gained popularity thousands of years ago, notably in ancient Rome and Greece, in part because of its high-polished finish. In fact, the word "marble" is derived from the Greek word marmaros, which translates to "shining stone." However, the simple, pristine beauty of marble, which is available around the world in a variety of colors, isn't its only selling point; the stone is also revered for its easy workability for carving and sculpture.

Geologically, marble is the result of metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate stones, such as limestone or dolostone, which are composed mostly of calcite. The metamorphic process results in a complete recrystallization of the original rock into a combination of calcite, aragonite and dolomite crystals. The beautiful swirls and veining present in marbles are the result of impurities ? such as silt, clay, oxides, sand, iron or chert ? that were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone. The intense heat of metamorphism recrystallizes these impurities.

Quarries of Marble

Marble is quarried across the world, from Ireland and Spain to China and Australia. Some of the finest marble in the world comes from Italy, where Rome is thought to be the largest marble production sector. Here, mining marble has become an extremely important facet of the Italian industrial landscape. In addition, some of the most developed marble quarries are in Greece, Turkey and Spain.

The quarrying process of marble has changed dramatically over the years. In the days of the Renaissance, the stone was mined by inserting wooden pegs into naturally occurring cracks in the rock. Then, water was poured onto the pegs, making them swell and eventually making the rock split. Today, contemporary marble quarrying uses a wire cable, approximately one centimeter in diameter and containing diamond chips. Quarriers drill holes into the rock, thread the cable through the holes to form a loop and then drive the loop at high speeds with an electric motor.

Taj Mahal
Marble has been used as an architectural stone on many of the famous buildings and structures of our time, including the Taj Mahal.

Colors of Marble

Marble's colors are widely varied, ranging from milky, snow white to gray, black and everything in between. While the most well known color of marble is white, accessory minerals acting as coloring agents produce a plethora of colors. Carbonaceous matter accounts for shades of black marble, while diopside, hornblende, serpentine and talc can create hues of green. Hematite present in the stone results in shades of red, and limonite causes variations of yellow and brown. Uneven distribution of these coloring agents causes color spots, an effect that is commonly called "veining."

marble
Often, designers and architects prefer shades of white and light-colored marbles for kitchens and baths because these stones can offset or better compliment other more vibrant colors in a room.

Often, designers and architects prefer shades of white and light-colored marbles for kitchens and baths because these stones can offset or better compliment other more vibrant colors in a room.

Applications of Marble

The applications for marble are just as varied as its colors, ranging from sinks and floor tiles to sculptures and inlaid designs. Depending on its purity, texture and pattern, marble is quarried for use as dimension stone for statuary, architectural purposes, and both interior and exterior ornamental features.

Marble is available in blocks, tiles and slabs and comes in a number of finishes, including polished, honed, sawn (rough), sand blasted, bush hammered and flamed. The stone is highly prized for its shiny polish, and its natural veining and translucence make it aesthetically pleasing. Also, with a hardness of three on the MOHs scale, marble is a softer stone, making it ideal for carving and sculpting.

Although it is a softer stone, marble can be used for countertops; its virtual imperviousness to water makes it a great material for use in bathroom designs.

Marble is often seen as a symbol of luxury, grandeur and status, and its demand is continuing to increase as more end users are seeing it in design magazines. Today, marble is being used as never before in newly constructed hotels, houses, condominiums and office buildings.

Interesting Facts

Marble has been used as an architectural stone on many of the famous buildings and structures of our time, including the Taj Mahal, the Cathedral of Pisa, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol, and the frieze on the Parthenon.

(Article from Building Stone Magazine)