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What is Marble?

What is Marble?

A look at a classic stone

From the shimmering aura of the Taj Mahal to the humble floor of your home’s bathroom, marble is one of the world’s most revered and useful natural materials. Marble is Michelangelo’s David, the Washington Monument, and the Duomo of Florence. It is also the primary ingredient in Tums antacid. The mineral content of marble is the same as the limestone it came from, and both of these stones are made of calcite, AKA calcium carbonate. Calcite is one of the more common minerals on Earth’s surface; in addition to limestone and marble, calcite is the primary ingredient in travertine and onyx.

Origin of Marble

A seabed, transformed – Before marble becomes marble, it is first limestone, which forms on the shores and floors of tropical seas. The ocean floor slowly spreads apart from the center and slips underneath continents at the edges. When a limestone seabed gets dragged down into the Earth’s crust, the additional heat transforms the calcite grains and fuses them together tightly. The dynamic action of rock layers as they become buried, twisted, and shoved around causes the original flat-lying layers to bend, buckle, and swirl together. A rock in this heated state doesn’t melt. It’s simply warm and flexible, much like a chocolate bar left in your pocket. This process of heating and warping is responsible for marble’s trademark aesthetic of gracefully flowing bands of color. The grey swirls in marble are simply clay layers that got folded, smeared, and re-folded into the marble like a ribbon of chocolate infused throughout fudge ripple ice cream. 

Etches can be polished out, or they can be left alone and considered part of the natural patina that marble will acquire over time.   

Marble is ground up into antiacid tablets because calcite neutralizes acid, which makes your stomach feel better. That also explains why acid makes a mark on marble. The marble reacts with the acid, neutralizing the acid, but damaging your countertop in the meantime. Ironically, when your teenager dribbles pickle juice on a brand new countertop, you may find yourself reaching for the antacid, triggering the same chemical reaction both on the countertop and in your digestive tract.

Uses of Marble

Marble remains a popular choice for countertops, backsplashes, bathrooms, tabletops, flooring, and cladding. Marble’s versatility makes it at home in an ancient Greek sculpture, in a lavish hotel lobby, or on a hardworking kitchen island. Marble also finds its way into our lives as household objects like cheese boards, rolling pins, vases, and lamps.   

Despite the emergence of marble lookalikes, there’s nothing quite like the real thing. Marble has been a metaphor for worship, reverence, and beauty for millennia. Its ability to do that is all the more appreciated today.