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This article is about the rock. For the toy, see Marble (toy). For other uses, see Marble (disambiguation).
Marble in Carrara marble quarry, Italy
The Taj Mahal is entirely clad in marble.

Marble is a metamorphic rock that may be foliated or non-foliated, composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however, stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.[1] Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.


Carlo Franzoni's sculptural marble chariot clock depicting Clio, the Greek muse of history.

The word "marble" derives from the Greek μάρμαρον (mármaron),[2] from μάρμαρος (mármaros), "crystalline rock, shining stone",[3][4] perhaps from the verb μαρμαίρω (marmaírō), "to flash, sparkle, gleam";[5] R. S. P. Beekes has suggested that a "Pre-Greek origin is probable."[6]

Folded and weathered marble at General Carrera Lake, Chile

This stem is also the basis for the English word marmoreal, meaning "marble-like." While the English term resembles the French marbre, most other European languages follow the original Greek—see Persian and Irish marmar, Spanish mármol, Italian marmo, Portuguese mármore, Welsh, Slovene, German, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish marmor, Finnish marmori, Romanian marmură, Polish marmur, Dutch marmer, Turkish mermer, Czech mramor, and Russian мрáмор (mramor). In Hungarian it is called márvány.

Physical origins[edit]

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.


Examples of historically notable marble varieties and locations:

Marble Color Location Country
Pentelic marble[7] pure-white, fine-grained semitranslucent Mount Pentelicus (Πεντελικό όρος), Attica (Ἀττική)  Greece
Connemara marble green Connemara, County Galway  Ireland
Creole marble white and blue/black Pickens County, Georgia  United States
Etowah marble pink, salmon, rose Pickens County, Georgia  United States
Makrana marble white Makrana, Nagaur district, Rajasthan  India
Murphy marble white Pickens and Gilmer Counties, Georgia  United States
Nero Marquina marble black Markina, Spain  Spain
Parian marble pure-white, fine-grained Island of Paros (Πάρος), South Aegean (Νοτίου Αιγαίου)  Greece
Carrara marble white or blue-gray Carrara, Tuscany  Italy
Purbeck marble Gray/brown Isle of Purbeck, Dorset  United Kingdom
Ruskeala marble white near Ruskeala (Рускеала), Karelia (Карелия)  Russia
Rușchița marble[8] white, pinkish, reddish Poiana Ruscă Mountains, Caraș-Severin County  Romania
Sienna marble[9] yellow with violet, red, blue or white veins near Siena, Tuscany  Italy
Bianco Sivec white near Prilep (Прилеп), Pelagonia (Пелагониски)  Macedonia
Swedish green marble green near Kolmården, Södermanland  Sweden
Sylacauga marble white Talladega County, Alabama  United States
Vermont marble white Proctor, Vermont  United States
Yule marble uniform pure white near Marble, Colorado  United States
Wunsiedel marble white Wunsiedel, Bavaria  Germany


Ritual amphora of veined marble from Zakros. New palace period (1500–1450 BC), Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.
Marble Products in Romblon, Philippines.


White marble has been prized for its use in sculptures since 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 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 any kind, which is why many sculptors preferred and still prefer marble for sculpting.

Construction marble[edit]

Construction marble is a stone which is composed of calcite, dolomite or serpentine which is capable of taking a polish.[10] 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.

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.[11]


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. Italy is the world leader in marble export, with 20% share in global marble production, followed by China with 16%, India with 10%, Spain with 6%, and Portugal with 5%.[12]

Occupational safety[edit]

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.[13]

United States[edit]

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.[14]

Microbial degradation[edit]

The haloalkaliphilic methylotrophic bacterium Methylophaga murata was isolated from deteriorating marble in the Kremlin.[15] Bacterial and fungal degradation was detected in four samples of marble from Milan cathedral; black Cladosporium attacked dried acrylic resin[16] using melanin.[17]

Cultural associations[edit]

Jadwiga of Poland's sarcophagus by Antoni Madeyski, Wawel Cathedral, Cracow
Relief on the Marble Door of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

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 that are on display in the British Museum. They were brought to Britain by the Earl of Elgin.

Artificial marble[edit]

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.


The Nike of Samothrace is made of Parian marble (c. 220–190 BC) 
The Praetorians Relief, made from grey veined marble, c. 51–52 AD 
Ancient marble columns in the prayer hall of the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia 
Aon Center in Chicago was the tallest structure clad in marble upon its completion. The marble however proved to be fragile, and the building was re-clad in a similarly-colored granite at an extreme financial cost. 
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, New York 
As with many Brazil's government buildings in Brasília, the Palácio do Planalto, official workplace of the Brazilian President, is clad in marble 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kearey, Philip (2001). Dictionary of Geology, Penguin Group, London and New York, p. 163. ISBN 978-0-14-051494-0
  2. ^ μάρμαρον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  3. ^ μάρμαρος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  4. ^ Marble, Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  5. ^ μαρμαίρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  6. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 907.
  7. ^ Pentelic marble, Britannica Online Encyclopaedia. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  8. ^ Raport de Tarǎ. Domul din Milano a fost reconstruit cu marmură de Rușchița
  9. ^ Jameson, Robert (2011). System of Mineralogy (2 [Digital] ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108029742. 
  10. ^ Marble Institute of America pp. 223 Glossary
  11. ^ "Turkmenistan enters record books for having the most white marble buildings | World news". London: 2013-05-26. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  12. ^ Strategic positioning study of the marble branch. CEPI Brief N° 6.
  13. ^ Foja, A.F. (1993) Marble industry: its socioeconomic, environmental and health effects among marble worker/producer households in Romblon. Philippines University Thesis.
  14. ^ "CDC – NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards – Marble". Retrieved 2015-11-27. 
  15. ^ Doronina NV; Li TsD; Ivanova EG; Trotsenko IuA. (2005). "Methylophaga murata sp. nov.: a haloalkaliphilic aerobic methylotroph from deteriorating marble". Mikrobiologiia. 74 (4): 511–9. PMID 16211855. 
  16. ^ Cappitelli F; Principi P; Pedrazzani R; Toniolo L; Sorlini C (2007). "Bacterial and fungal deterioration of the Milan Cathedral marble treated with protective synthetic resins". Science of the Total Environment. 385 (1–3): 172–81. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.06.022. PMID 17658586. 
  17. ^ Cappitelli F; Nosanchuk JD; Casadevall A; Toniolo L; Brusetti L; Florio S,; Principi P; Borin S; Sorlini C (Jan 2007). "Synthetic consolidants attacked by melanin-producing fungi: case study of the biodeterioration of Milan (Italy) cathedral marble treated with acrylics". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73 (1): 271–7. doi:10.1128/AEM.02220-06. PMC 1797126free to read. PMID 17071788. 

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