Marble is a unique material, its colors and patterns completely singular and unrepeatable, inimitably precious. It doesn’t start out this way, however. A lot of time goes into making marble look and feel the way it does. Many elements have to align perfectly under the work of several separate forces. It is only at the end of a long process that we can pluck the stone from the earth to enjoy its beauty, shaping it into a marble countertop, backsplash or tile that we can admire for many years.
The Origin of Marble
Marble actually begins as limestone, a rock composed of calcite as well as the remnants of shells, coral, fossils and other sea debris. As these pieces settle and erode in warm, clear waters, they form a sediment. After many years, layers of sediment deepen and a significant deposit of limestone accumulates. Limestone itself has several uses and is frequently mined for construction, roofing, cement and lime. If it continues to develop and certain conditions are met, the limestone might keep evolving until it becomes marble.
How Marble is Made
For marble to be made it needs two things: heat and movement. When a regional area of limestone is heated, either at a place of convergence between two of the earth’s plates or as a result of magma within the earth as a heat source, the calcite crystals within the limestone begin to grow and recrystallize. This metamorphic process is what turns the limestone into marble. Swirling patterns form as the heated and malleable rock is shaped by pressures within the earth.
The metamorphosis of limestone to marble can happen on a large scale, meaning huge swaths of marble can then be harvested through mining.
Unique Design and Color
Most marble is white, consisting of pure calcite, but the presence of other minerals can cause it to change color. For example, the influence of iron will turn marble into a salmon pink, a deep red or green is the cause of serpentine, and limestone that was loaded with graphite-rich fossils will become a marble that is dark and gleaming like gunmetal.
Once the marble is extracted from the earth, it can either be crushed into stone or maintained in large slabs that display the time and hard work involved in its creation. Each stone is individual and tells its own story of how it came to be. It can then be highly polished to reveal the depth of its colors and patterns.
Making a Marble Countertop
When a slab of marble is selected for use, as a countertop for example, a template is laid against it to select the area that best showcases the personality of the natural stone. Different features of the stone appeal to different styles, so it’s up to the designer to decide what best fits the aesthetic of the room and its users.
The stone is then cut and shaped before being installed as a beautiful new centerpiece to be admired and enjoyed.
Caring for your Marble Surface
Marble is a stunning and strong material, but it requires a little loving attention to maintain. On the Mohs scale, marble is rated a three, so it is relatively easy to scratch with another hard, sharp surface like a knife or a pan. A scratch will not damage the integrity of the stone, but it will leave a mark. While some might view it as another part of the stone’s story, it’s recommended to avoid any scraping or scratching to preserve the clean finish.
Another possibility of damage to marble is by etching. Etching occurs when an acid reacts with the calcite in the stone, dissolving a small part of the surface as the acid is neutralized. This may change the look and feel of the stone in the area where the reaction occurred. Etching can be removed through polishing.
Even after being sealed, marble is a relatively porous stone so it can stain easily. Avoid placing stain-prone foods on any marble countertop, and be sure to clean it with warm water and a non-acidic agent. With proper care and periodic sealing, the unique story and sheen of the marble can be preserved and appreciated for a long time.
If you’re looking for marble countertops, Kowalski can help. We offer a massive selection of marble countertop materials, and we’d love to help you find the perfect option for your upcoming renovation or building project.