All over the world you can find a diverse representation of this natural stone. In numerous countries and in multiple applications there are buildings, hardscapes, and even sculptures fashioned from natural marble. What is it? Why is it used for so many things? And what kind of care and maintenance does it require? We will discuss the answers to those questions in this article.
What is Natural Marble
One of the first things many people ask when they begin to learn about a material has to do with what that material is. Hence, our first question, "What is marble?" That question could be answered many different ways. In fact, some of the simple answers include the following:
- A material used for carving sculptures.
- An elegant natural stone.
- Rock that is used for making high-end floors.
- A fancy material used in very expensive buildings.
- An example of a metamorphic rock.
Depending on whom you pose that question to, you will receive different answers. So, we are going to consider the answer at a deeper level.
Marble is a Natural Metamorphic Rock
In our list of answers above, we included one that stated that marble is a metamorphic rock. And marble is a metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock is a natural stone that starts out as a different kind of rock but then is transformed into another material.
Metamorphasis happens when a rock is subjected to intense pressure and heat along with mineral-rich fluids. The combination of those factors produces a result where a stone of an initial type is transformed into a completely different stone.
What is Marble Made From?
Since we have already stated that marble is the result of a metamorphic transformation, the logical thing to wonder is, "What kind of rock did marble used to be?" The answer to that question is limestone. Natural marble starts out as limestone. The metamorphic process transforms that limestone into natural marble.
One of the changes that occurs when the materials in limestone are metamorphosed into marble is that the material is squeezed tightly; making marble les porous. During the metamorphic process, the limestone is recrystallized and the texture of the rock changes. This recrystallization is what distinguishes marble from limestone.
The crystals that make up marble start out small and continue to grow during the metamorphic process, so not all marble will have the exact same appearance, but the recrystallization is what marks the difference between these materials.
Properties of Natural Marble
The physical properties of natural marble make it an appealing material used by many for several applications. Let's explore some of the most notable physical properties of marble.
Marble has some characteristics that make it a material of choice for some projects by designers and other professionals. One of these characteristics is that marble has an elegant appearance. The primary mineral in marble is calcium carbonate. This means that much of the marble used is a very light color and the purest marble is completely white. Impurities (non-calcite material) in the stone form alternative coloring. As a result, much marble has colored veining that accents the stone and contributes to its elegant appearance.
Stone hardness is measured using a scale to determine how strong the minerals it is composed of are. This scale is called the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness. It ranges from 1 to 10. In that scale, natural marble registers at 3 to 4. So, it is on the "soft" end of the scale. When speaking of natural stone, the term "soft" is relative. Marble is a rock, it's just that there are other natural stones that are much harder than this one. That being said, natural marble is still effective for applications that require a "hard" surface.
Marble In Architecture & Design
Natural marble is a resilient material that has been used in countless buildings and structures the world over. Natural marble structures can be found in many countries including:
- United States
In the U.S. there are several governmental buildings and monuments that are constructed from natural marble. Tombs and landmarks are other examples of structures made from this sturdy, long lasting material.
Stone fabricators that work with natural marble have equipment designed to cut, grind, shape, repair, and glue marble. Working with any natural stone material requires at least some experience. However, having the tools designed for the task, makes the actual easier and allows professional stone workers to complete projects effectively. Diamond blades, core bits, polishing pads, and glue for bonding marble are all products that are used in stone fabrication.
Marble Care and Maintenance
Natural marble has some basic care and maintenance requirements. As with many natural stone surfaces, a marble surface requires a sealer to help it resist water and oil based liquids that could get into the pores of the material and discolor it.
Because marble benefits from being sealed, using the proper stone cleaner is also a necessary maintenance practice. Using the wrong stone cleaner on natural marble could result in the destruction of the sealer mentioned above. This would undo any benefits that result from keeping the surface sealed.
Finally, any calcareous material is susceptible to what is referred to as etching. An etch happens when an acidic substance reacts with (or destroys) the calcium carbonate in a stone material. This reaction dissolves the calcite crystals in the stone and makes polished marble look dull and honed marble look dingy. As a result, etch remover is product that is good to have on hand if you work with marble or own a marble slab.
Natural marble is a natural material that has been used in many prestigious applications. It is a stone that emits elegance and can be used for a variety of purposes. Even though it is not the hardest natural stone that one can buy, it is sufficient for many uses. Working with marble will take a significant amount of specialized equipment and knowledge, but with the right information and little bit of research it can be done. In the end, like all other materials, marble will require specific care and maintenance and the better care you give it the longer it will last.