Many amazing architectural accomplishments have been constructed using natural marble. And through the years there have been several uses for the elegant look and classic style that this material exudes. In this article we will take you through some of the basic information about marble. As we do, you will no doubt see things you know about this material. Additionally, you may come across some facts that you have not yet heard about this amazing natural stone.
What Is Marble?
Marble has some characteristics that make it nearly unmistakable. The properties of marble make it stand out from other natural and man made materials that are used for similar purposes. Why is that the case? The reason lies in the answer to the question, "What is marble?" According to
Geology.com marble is described as follows:
Marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to the heat and pressure of metamorphism. It is composed primarily of the mineral calcite (CaCO3) and usually contains other minerals, such as clay minerals, micas, quartz, pyrite, iron oxides, and graphite.
That definition is pretty consistent with many other published descriptions you will find online and offline. But note what the same page goes on to say:
Under the conditions of metamorphism, the calcite in the limestone recrystallizes to form a rock that is a mass of interlocking calcite crystals.
That statement is the one that holds the key to marble's unique and elegant appearance. Why? Because the "calcite crystals" contribute to the look of marble in a large way. Let's look at the properties of marble and see how the calcite crystals play a role them.
Properties of Marble
Marble, like other
natural stone and man made materials has characteristics that differentiate it from other materials. One of the key traits it possesses is its natural "gloss". This property is called by many names. "Shine", "sheen", and "luster" are all terms that are commonly used to describe this prominent feature of natural marble. What gives marble that hallmark glimmer that it is known for?
The key to the glimmering nature of natural marble lies in its composition. As we mentioned above, natural marble is made up of
calcite crystals. These crystals interact with light and impact the stone's appearance. In fact, the very word marble derives from an Ancient Greek word that means "crystalline rock, shining stone". That shining quality of marble is one that draws people to it.
Another trait that distinguishes marble from other natural stone is its workability. Again, this is due to the material of which it is made. Calcium carbonate (calcite) is a soft material. Marble is primarily composed of this mineral and as a result, it is a relatively "soft" stone. Because of its ability to be shaped, marble is known for being a sculpting material.
Natural marble is used for many applications. One of the uses for this extraordinary material is as a countertop material. Even though some do not prefer marble for countertops, there are those that truly value the natural patina that develops on a marble surface over time and use. The unique, natural elegance that is characteristic of marble also draws many to the material.
Fabricating Countertops With Marble
As mentioned above, marble is a very work-able material. Fabricating natural marble does require specific tools to get the best results. For example, there are a number of diamond blades that will cut marble, but because of its "soft" consistency, it is recommended that a
saw blade designed for cutting marble be used. Using a blade that is not made for cutting marble could result in the blade getting gummed up with removed material and not cutting well. However, the proper diamond blade, is designed to allow the removed material to be freed from the blade.
Marble Countertop Durability
As we mentioned above, natural marble surfaces can devleop a desirable patina. Yet, not everyone wants that. For this reason, you may find that some will say that marble is not very durable. However, marble's durability is proven because it has been used for so many structures that have held up for many years. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court building has a great deal of marble in it. Furthermore, there are many buildings that have existed for centuries made from marble.
True, we mentioned earlier that marble is a relatively soft stone. However, it is a rock and although it is not as hard as other natural stone materials, it is sufficient for use as a durable surface. Yet, owning a marble countertop will take a bit of knowledge and wisdom to keep looking like new.
Care & Maintenance of Marble Counters
Owning marble surfaces takes a bit of knowhow and care. Why? Well, the very material it is composed of that distiguishes it form other materials is susceptible to acids. Even household liquids that are acidic can react with the calcite in the marble. The result of this is "etching" of the surface. When a marble material is etches it changes the appearance of the stone. For example, a polished marble slab that is etched will show a dull spot where the etching occured. On the other hand, marble that has a honed finish will present the etch as a dark spot.
Etches, along with other reactions, discolorations, and everyday use are all factors that contribute to the patina we mentioned earlier. So, if you want a surface that over time will develop a weathered, antiqued, aged look, marble may just be the material for you. And even if you want to preserve the look of your new marble, you can. It will just take more attention and care.
3 Step Marble Care and Maintenance
Caring for natural marble is relatively simple and involves the following three steps:
- Periodic sealer application - sealing natural marble when it is "thirsty" creates a barrier that repels oil and water based liquids that increase the amount of time it takes for the stone to absorb liquids.
- Daily cleaning with the proper cleaner - after sealing marble surfaces, the proper cleaning products are required in order to preserve the barrier created by the sealer.
- Use of the appropriate stain removing products - there are a number of substances that cause staining on marble and using a stain remover for stains that occur will prove to be most effective. Additionally, if a stone stained easily, it might be an idication that step 1 needs to be performed.
Are Marble Counters Right for You?
Are marble surfaces the answer to your need for a distinct, elegant, and timeless material for a project? They just might be, if you are the type that prefers a certain look. Or, if you just like the look of new marble and are willing to put in the necessary effort to keep it looking nice and new.