Marble Characteristics


Marble is beautiful, fairly easy to carve and versatile as both a building material and artist’s material. It can, however, be scratched and stained. Marble is a metamorphic rock, or a rock that was formed from another kind of rock, such as limestone or dolomite, due to the extreme heat and pressure deep in the earth’s crust. Pure marble is made of carbonate crystals.

Uses of Marble

  • Marble has been used since ancient times for sculpture and buildings. Construction marble is used not only for buildings, but also counter tops, tabletops and vanities. Very pure marble can be ground into powder for use in toothpaste, paints, plastic and papermaking.

    Marble is usually named after the place it comes from, like Carrara, Italy, and comes in various grades. Statuary marble is usually of a higher grade than construction marble, with Carrara marble, known as Italian statuary, being the best. Only very hard and compact marbles should be used for outdoors.


  • Marble can range in color from purest white to green, gray, brown, red, pink or purple. The finest grades for artists have a purity of color, fine grain, uniform texture and no veins or clouds. But many people find the imperfections in construction marble pleasing. These imperfections can be caused by clay, sand, iron oxides or chert, a fossil bearing rock. Green color in marble is often due to serpentine, an olive green semiprecious stone.

Where It’s Found

  • Marble is found all over the world. Some of the best graded statuary marbles are found in the United States, like Vermont White, Colorado Yule and Sylacauga from a rich vein of marble in Alabama.

Cleaning Marble

  • Marble is very sensitive to air pollution, especially acid rain. You can see this effect on tombstones, where the marble becomes roughened, a process known as sugaring.

    Precautions should be used in the care of marble. Hot items shouldn’t be put directly on the stone. Coasters should be used under glasses, especially ones that hold acidic drinks like orange juice. Non-slip mats and area rugs will cut down on dirt that can scratch a marble floor. Marble should be cleaned with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap or mild dishwashing detergent and warm water. A clean mop or cloths should be used, and cleaners that are acidic, like vinegar, or scouring pads that can scratch should be avoided. The stone should be rinsed after washing and dried with a soft, clean cloth.

    Vanity tops and counter tops should be protected with a penetrating sealer or marble wax or even automobile wax according to the installer’s instructions.

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  • Photo Credit Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images Hemera Technologies/ Images Jupiterimages/ Images
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  • “Simon and Schusters Guide to Rocks & Minerals”; Edited by Martin Prinz, et al.; 1978
  • “The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques”; Ralph Mayer; 1981

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