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What is Marble?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

Marble is a type of metamorphic rock that is characterized by swirls of color from impurities and the ability to take a very high polish. This stone has been used for thousands of years in art and architecture, and it continues to be very popular today in applications ranging from garden paving stones to mantles. High quality marble is typically very costly, and many people associate the stone with luxurious design as a result.

A variety of metamorphic rocks including granite are sometimes called “marble,” but true marble comes from either limestone or dolomite. As these sedimentary rocks undergo heat and pressure, they recrystallize, forming this type of stone. It often has no clearly discernible grain, and it is typically streaked with veins and clouds of impurity that vary widely in color. When cut into slabs, these impurities can create striking and fanciful designs.

Pure white marble comes from limestone with no impurities, and it has historically been highly prized. In many cultures, it is a sign of purity, and it has been associated with good fortune in education and finance, which is why many colleges and financial institutions have buildings which feature a lot of white marble. The rock can also be black, gray, pink, or green, and it may be streaked with many variations of these colors.

In sculpting, marble is carved into desired shapes and typically highly polished. It can also be cut into slabs for flooring, countertops, and tiles, and slabs have also been used to face buildings and columns. Bakers often enjoy working on marble countertops since the dense stone stays cool and resists oils, making it ideal for rolling out baked goods without having to worry about them sticking to the counter.

The quality of marble can vary widely. People who are not experienced with this stone can end up with pieces that are not terribly useful, since they have flaws or cracks that will cause problems if the rock is used. It also takes years of experience to learn to work with marble, since the stone is very brittle and hard, and it can shatter if roughly treated. People who want to work with it as a sculpture medium generally go through training with a wide assortment of rock types before they are permitted to work in marble.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon224474 — On Oct 23, 2011

how does a marble form?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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