An irregularly shaped rock, milky-white in color. The rock glistens or sparkles from the overhead lights.



Folded and weathered marble at General Carrera Lake, Chile.

Taj Mahal in March 2004

The Taj Mahal is made of marble.

Venus de Milo Louvre Ma399-02b

Ancient greek statue of Venus de Milo, sculpted from marble.

Landscape marble skyline

Natural patterns on the polished surface of Breccia or "landscape marble" can resemble a city skyline or even trees, and were used as inlays for furniture etc.

Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. It is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.


The word "marble" derives from the Greek "μάρμαρον" (mármaron),[1] from "μάρμαρος" (mármaros), "crystalline rock", "shining stone",[2][3] perhaps from the verb "μαρμαίρω" (marmaírō), "to flash, sparkle, gleam".[4] This stem is also the basis for the English word marmoreal, meaning "marble-like."

Whilst the English term resembles the French marbre, most other european languages (eg Spanish marmol, Italian marmo, Portuguese mármore, German and Swedish marmor, Polish marmur, Czech mramor and Russian мрáмор ) follow the original Greek.


Marble is a rock resulting from metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks, (most commonly limestone or dolomite rock). Metamorphism causes variable recrystallization of the original carbonate mineral grains. The resulting marble rock is typically composed of an interlocking mosaic of carbonate crystals. Primary sedimentary textures and structures of the original carbonate rock (protolith) have typically been modified or destroyed.

Pure white marble is the result of metamorphism of a very pure (silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. The characteristic swirls and veins of many colored marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert which were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone. Green coloration is often due to serpentine resulting from originally high magnesium limestone or dolostone with silica impurities. These various impurities have been mobilized and recrystallized by the intense pressure and heat of the metamorphism.


Historically notable marble varieties and locations:

Marble name Color Location Country
Caldia white Loc. Rocchette Tuscany MS Italy
White Marble white Island of Brač Croatia
Black marble black Pennsylvania United States
Macael marble white Macael,(Almeria) Spain
Carrara marble white or blue-gray Carrara Italy
Parian marble Fine-grained pure-white Island of Paros Greece
Penteli marble Fine-grained semitranslucent pure-white Penteliko Mountain, Athens Greece
Rouge de Rance Red Rance Belgium
Galala Marble Beige Suez, Egypt Egypt
Macedonian Bianco Sivec White Prilep Republic of Macedonia
Tennessee marble Pale pink to cedar-red Knox, Blount and Hawkins Counties, Tennessee United States
Yule Marble Uniform pure white Marble, Colorado United States
Murphy Marble White Pickens and Gilmer Counties, Georgia United States
Phrygian Marble Purple Phrygia Turkey
Numidian Marble Yellow e.g. Chemtou Tunisia
Makrana Marble White Makrana India



White marble was prized for its use in sculptures since classical times. This preference has to do with the softness and relative isotropy and homogeneity, and a relative resistance to shattering. Also, the low index of refraction of calcite allows light to penetrate several millimeters into the stone before being scattered out, resulting in the characteristic "waxy" look which gives "life" to marble sculptures of the human body.

Construction marbleEdit

Construction marble is a stone which is composed of calcite, dolomite or serpentine which is capable of taking a polish.[5] More generally in construction, specifically the dimension stone trade, the term "marble" is used for any crystalline calcitic rock (and some non-calcitic rocks) useful as building stone. For example, Tennessee marble is really a dense granular fossiliferous gray to pink to maroon Ordovician limestone that geologists call the Holston Formation.

Industrial useEdit

DSCN2642 marbleblocksinmarble 600

Blocks of cut marble at the historic mill in Marble, Colorado.

Colorless or light-colored marbles are a very pure source of calcium carbonate, which is used in a wide variety of industries. Finely ground marble or calcium carbonate powder is a component in paper, and in consumer products such as toothpaste, plastics, and paints. Ground calcium carbonate can be made from limestone, chalk, and marble; about three-quarters of the ground calcium carbonate worldwide is made from marble. Ground calcium carbonate is used as a coating pigment for paper because of its high brightness and as a paper filler because it strengthens the sheet and imparts high brightness. Ground calcium carbonate is used in consumer products such as a food additive, in toothpaste, and as an inert filler in pills. It is used in plastics because it imparts stiffness, impact strength, dimensional stability, and thermal conductivity. It is used in paints because it is a good filler and extender, has high brightness, and is weather resistant. However, the growth in demand for ground calcium carbonate in the last decade has mostly been for a coating pigment in paper.

Calcium carbonate can also be reduced under high heat to calcium oxide (also known as "lime"), which has many applications including being a primary component of many forms of cement.


Mississippian marble in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, USA.



Black Dębnik marble portal (17th century) of St. Wojciech's Church in Kraków.

According to the United States Geological Survey, U.S. dimension marble production in 2006 was 46,400 tons valued at $18.1 million, compared to 72,300 tons valued at $18.9 million in 2005. Crushed marble production (for aggregate and industrial uses) in 2006 was 11.8 million tons valued at $116 million, of which 6.5 million tons was finely ground calcium carbonate and the rest was construction aggregate. For comparison, 2005 crushed marble production was 7.76 million tons valued at $58.7 million, of which 4.8 million tons was finely ground calcium carbonate and the rest was construction aggregate. U.S. dimension marble demand is about 1.3 million tons. The DSAN World Demand for (finished) Marble Index has shown a growth of 12% annually for the 2000-2006 period, compared to 10.5% annually for the 2000–2005 period. The largest dimension marble application is tile.

Artificial marbleEdit

Marble dust is combined with cement or synthetic resins to make reconstituted or cultured marble. The appearance of marble can be simulated with faux marbling, a painting technique that imitates the stone's color patterns.

Cultural associationsEdit


Marble from Italy.


Ancient marble columns in the prayer hall of the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia

As the favorite medium for Greek and Roman sculptors and architects (see classical sculpture), marble has become a cultural symbol of tradition and refined taste. Its extremely varied and colorful patterns make it a favorite decorative material, and it is often imitated in background patterns for computer displays, etc.

Places named after the stone include Marblehead, Ohio; Marble Arch, London; the Sea of Marmara; India's Marble Rocks; and the towns of Marble, Minnesota; Marble, Colorado; and Marble Hill, Manhattan, New York. The Elgin Marbles are marble sculptures from the Parthenon that are on display in the British Museum. They were brought to Britain by the Earl of Elgin.

See alsoEdit


  1. μάρμαρον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. μάρμαρος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  3. Marble, Compact Oxford English Dictionary
  4. μαρμαίρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. Marble Institute of America pp. 223 Glossary

External linksEdit

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