Marble: whether it’s polished, sandblasted, honed, brushed or tumbled, it has always been a highly sought-after material, but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity among interior designers. Marble is no longer the preserve of magnificent, imposing buildings – it was one of the biggest trends for both 2017 and 2018. But it’s worth noting that the term doesn’t refer to just one type of stone. It has its origins in the ancient Greek marmaros, meaning ‘shining stone’. Nowadays, however, it it used to refer to any decorative, polishable limestone with a marbled pattern. You can find out more about how marble is formed from limestone in our quick Q&A box at the bottom of the article, and read more about this beautiful, versatile material below…
Carrara white marble: a true classic
Mined in Carrara in Tuscany, Carrara Bianco is perhaps the most iconic type of marble, and fits the scientific definition of true marble. It was mined back in the days of Ancient Rome and is characteristically bright white. It was used in the construction of both Florence Cathedral and St. Peter’s Basilica, and it also adorns The Pantheon. Depending on its mineralisation, Carrara marble can either feature smoky grey veins with a somewhat feathered texture, or it can appear pure white in colour. The subtly textured look is particularly favoured for interiors – it’s perfect for table tops, stairs and tiles. Meanwhile, the pure white variation, statuario, is the material for sculptures. Which marble did Michelangelo use? You guessed it: Carrara marble. It has Michelangelo to thank for the enduring popularity it has enjoyed since the Renaissance, as he used it for his David.
Fun fact: Very small pieces of marble are ground down into dust, which is used to help make toothpaste, abrasive cleaning products, glass and paper. The pharmaceutical industry also uses the dust, for example, to manufacture antacids.
Guatemala green marble: ultimate elegance
Like Carrara, Verde Guatemala is a metamorphic stone created from limestone, but is classed as a serpentine stone due to its properties. Serpentines are used by some as a protective stone to banish evil. A cool-toned dark green, Verde Guatemala is shot through with white quartz veins, creating a soft, shadowed finish. Contrary to its name, it is actually mined in India and is regionally known as Rajasthan Green. With its understated look, it has a calming effect and is often used on a larger scale to cover entire walls. It is also a popular choice for designer furniture thanks to its rich green colour.
Emperador brown marble: harmony
Marron Emperador is a brown limestone from Spain. Its strikingly diverse marbling varies from pale light brown to deep brown, sometimes with white veins running through it. The classic, earthy tones create a calm and – perhaps unusually – warm feel.
Marquina black marble: rich contrast
Nero Marquina is also a Spanish limestone. As the name suggests, it is black and mined in both Markina and nearby Aulesti. It has a highly distinctive white grain. This particular type is not frost-resistant and is therefore better suited for use indoors, where it is most popularly used for tables and chess boards.
What is marble?
There is no strict definition, at least from a petrographic point of view. [Petrography refers to the branch of science concerned with the composition and properties of rocks.] Instead, the term refers to any decorative limestone which can be polished and has a marbled pattern.
How is marble formed from limestone?
Composed primarily of calcite, it was formed more than 30 million years ago under extreme pressure and temperatures (metamorphosis). “Real” marble, such as Carrara white, is a metamorphic rock formed this way. This occurred as the tectonic plates of Africa and Europe converged and formed the Apuan Alps.
What’s the difference between marble, serpentine and limestone?
Serpentine, such as Guatemala green, is also classed as a metamorphic rock as, like marble, it was also formed under pressure. Serpentines, however, are primarily composed of so-called serpentine minerals rather than calcite. Limestones, such as Emperador brown and Marquina black are also primarily composed of calcite. Their differing colours are simply a result of the minerals they are mixed with. They were not formed via metamorphosis, however, but rather via a biogenic or chemical reaction. The result? Marble is a much harder rock than limestone and has more uses within the home.
Which marble is best? How should I choose which type to use in my home?
Limestone, marble and serpentine are all soft rocks which can easily be processed and polished without shattering or cracking. They are all equally as versatile, so whether you’re looking for understated white with soft greys or a statement accent piece in rich green, any of the four types listed above will fit seamlessly into your home. If you need some more inspiration, take a look at our range of marble side tables here, and customise yours to your heart’s content.