Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized
carbonate minerals Carbonate minerals are those minerals containing the carbonate ion, CO32−. Carbonate divisions Anhydrous carbonates *Calcite group: trigonal **Calcite CaCO3 **Gaspeite (Ni,Mg,Fe2+)CO3 **Magnesite MgCO3 **Otavite CdCO3 **Rhodochrosite MnCO3 **S ...
, most commonly
or dolomite. Marble is typically not foliated, although there are exceptions. In
geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which th ...
, the term ''marble'' refers to metamorphosed
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate rock, carbonate sedimentary rock. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different Polymorphism (materials science), crystal forms of calcium carbonate (). Limestone form ...
, but its use in
stonemasonry Stonemasonry or stonecraft is the creation of building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and ...
more broadly encompasses unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for
sculpture Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in st ...
and as a
building material Building material is material used for construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English Dictionary' ...


The word "marble" derives from the
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages () ...
(), from (), "crystalline rock, shining stone", perhaps from the verb (), "to flash, sparkle, gleam"; R. S. P. Beekes has suggested that a " Pre-Greek origin is probable". This stem is also the ancestor of the
word "marmoreal", meaning "marble-like." While the English term "marble" resembles the French , most other
European languages Most languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. Out of a total European population of 744 million as of 2018, some 94% are native speakers of an Indo-European language; within Indo-European, the three largest phyla are '' ...
(with words like "marmoreal") more closely resemble the original Ancient Greek.

Physical origins

Marble is a rock resulting from
metamorphism upright=1.35, Schematic representation of a metamorphic reaction. Abbreviations of minerals: act = actinolite; chl = Chlorite group">chlorite; ep = epidote; gt = garnet; hbl = hornblende; plag = plagioclase. Two minerals represented in the figure ...
of sedimentary rock, sedimentary carbonate rocks, most commonly
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate rock, carbonate sedimentary rock. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different Polymorphism (materials science), crystal forms of calcium carbonate (). Limestone form ...
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 minerals, silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. The characteristic swirls and Vein (geology), 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 group, serpentine resulting from originally magnesium-rich limestone or dolomite with silica impurities. These various impurities have been mobilized and recrystallized by the intense pressure and heat of the metamorphism.


Examples of historically notable marble varieties and locations:



White marble has been prized for its use in marble sculpture, sculptures since Classical antiquity, classical times. This preference has to do with its softness, which made it easier to carve, relative isotropy and homogeneity, and a relative resistance to shattering. Also, the low Refractive index, 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 brings a lifelike luster to marble sculptures of any kind, which is why many sculptors preferred and still prefer marble for sculpting.

Construction marble

Construction marble is a stone which is composed of calcite, dolomite or serpentine that is capable of taking a polish. 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 geology, geologists call the Holston Formation. Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, was recorded in the 2013 ''Guinness Book of Records'' as having the world's highest concentration of white marble buildings.


According to the United States Geological Survey, U.S. domestic marble production in 2006 was 46,400 tons valued at about $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. In 1998, marble production was dominated by 4 countries that accounted for almost half of world production of marble and decorative stone. Italy and China were the world leaders, each representing 16% of world production, while Spain and India produced 9% and 8%, respectively. In 2018 Turkey was the world leader in marble export, with 42% share in global marble trade, followed by Italy with 18% and Greece with 10%. The largest importer of marble in 2018 was China with a 64% market share, followed by India with 11% and Italy with 5%. Global market in 2020 marble 55 milliards dollars

Occupational safety

Dust produced by cutting marble could cause lung disease but more research needs to be carried out on whether dust filters and other safety products reduce this risk. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (permissible exposure limit) for marble exposure in the workplace as 15 mg/m3 total exposure and 5 mg/m3 respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 10 mg/m3 total exposure and 5 mg/m3 respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday.

Degradation by acids

Acids damage marble, because the calcium carbonate in marble reacts with them, releasing carbon dioxide (technically speaking, carbonic acid, but that decomposes quickly to CO2 and H2O) : :CaCO3(s) + 2H+(aq) → Ca2+(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O (l) Thus, vinegar or other acidic solutions should never be used on marble. Likewise, outdoor marble statues, headstone, gravestones, or other marble structures are damaged by acid rain.

Microbial degradation

The haloalkaliphilic methylotrophic bacterium ''Methylophaga murata'' was isolated from deteriorating marble in the Kremlin. Bacterial and fungal degradation was detected in four samples of marble from Milan cathedral; black ''Cladosporium'' attacked dried acrylic resin using melanin.

Cultural associations

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, Massachusetts; Marblehead, Ohio; Marble Arch, London; the Sea of Marmara; India's Marble Rocks; and the towns of Marble, Minnesota; Marble, Colorado; Marble Falls, Texas, and Marble Hill, Manhattan, New York. The Elgin Marbles are marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens that are on display in the British Museum. They were brought to Britain by the Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, Earl of Elgin.

Artificial marble

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.


File:Nike of Samothrake Louvre Ma2369 n4.jpg, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, Nike of Samothrace is made of Parian marble (c. 220–190 BC) File:Laocoon Pio-Clementino Inv1059-1064-1067.jpg, ''Laocoön and His Sons'' in the Vatican Museums, Vatican File:Lens - Inauguration du Louvre-Lens le 4 décembre 2012, la Galerie du Temps, n° 058.JPG, The Praetorians Relief, made from grey veined marble, AD File:Imgp7544.jpg, Ancient marble columns in the prayer hall of the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia File:Cleopatra by William Wetmore Story 03.jpg, ''Cleopatra'' by William Wetmore Story was described and admired in Nathaniel Hawthorne's romance, ''The Marble Faun'', and is on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. File:Per Hasselberg Näckrosen Rottneros Park.jpg, ''Näckrosen'' (Water Lily), Stockholm 1892, by Swedish sculptor Per Hasselberg (1850-1894). Here a copy from 1953 in marble by Giovanni Ardini (Italy) placed in Rottneros Park near Sunne, Sweden, Sunne in Värmland/Sweden. File:Pažaislis Monastery interior 1, Kaunas, Lithuania - Diliff.jpg, Pažaislis Monastery complex has the most marble-decorated Baroque church of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

See also

*Marble sculpture *Paper marbling *Marmorino *Pietra dura, inlaying with marble and other stones *Scagliola, imitating marble with plasterwork *Verd antique, sometimes (erroneously) called "serpentine marble", and also known as Connemara marble *Ruin marble, marble that contains light and dark patterns, giving the impression of a ruined cityscape


External links

Dimension Stone Statistics and Information
– United States Geological Survey minerals information for dimension stone
USGS 2005 Minerals Yearbook: Stone, CrushedUSGS 2005 Minerals Yearbook: Stone, DimensionUSGS 2006 Minerals Yearbook: Stone, CrushedUSGS 2006 Minerals Yearbook: Stone, DimensionMarble Institute of America
{{Authority control Marble, Sculpture materials Metasedimentary rocks Limestone Stone (material) Symbols of Alabama