Carrara marble is often referred to as the “marble par excellence”. In fact, it is the historically most well-known variety, since all the greatest sculptors have measured themselves with this material which, in the whitest variety, is called, precisely, Statuario. This marble is easily recognizable by its stone surface with a marked dark gray veining accompanied by other thinner ones. This typical contrast of the veins gives this variety of marble a unique appearance that makes it the most sought-after and requested natural stone in the world.
origins and characteristics of carrara marble
Carrara marble is a metamorphic rock formed by crystals of calcium carbonate of almost microscopic dimensions, originating from pre-existing rocks which, following strong variations in pressure and/or temperature, underwent a radical reorganization of the crystalline structure which transformed them into types of completely different rocks. In the specific case of Carrara marble, the original rock was a limestone similar to those that currently make up the great coral reefs of tropical seas. Its formation dates back to the Lower Jurassic (190 million years ago) when most of the regions now corresponding to northern Tuscany were covered by a vast sea on the bottom of which calcareous sediment was deposited which gave rise to a carbonate platform.
Due to the movements of the earth’s crust that preceded the birth of the Apennines, the carbonate platform emerged from the sea and became a mountain while maintaining its original characteristics unchanged, except in the region corresponding to the current Apuan Alps, in Tuscany, where strong pressure variations changed the crystalline structure. Thus, the limestone was transformed into marble and the carbonate platform, now “plastic” due to the strong pressure it underwent, folded on itself, giving rise to the complex geological structure that now forms the Apuan Alps, from which Carrara marble is extracted. The “white Carrara” variety is a marble characterized by a homogeneous background paste with bright granules with a color ranging from white to greyish and with more or less dark-shaded gray veins that cross it discontinuously.
sectors of use of carrara marble
The first to appreciate the artistic and commercial aspects of Carrara marble were the ancient Romans, who already from the first century BC. used it to build imperial palaces or to build statues. In any case, the marble industry reached its maximum prestige towards the end of the fifteenth century with the arrival of great personalities of the Renaissance, first of all, Michelangelo, who used it for his most famous works. White Carrara marble, however, has historically been used not only for architectural and sculptural works, but also for floors, stairs, cladding, kitchen tops, and for funerary tombstones. White Carrara, in fact, represents more than half of Italian production and is the best-known of the Apuan marble varieties.
how to distinguish marble from granite and stone
For an infallible test that allows us to distinguish marble from granite with certainty, you just need to put a small piece of the stone in hydrochloric acid: if no reaction occurs, then it means it is granite, a siliceous or volcanic material, while if gas bubbles emerge from the liquid, it means that the material is undoubtedly marble. The characteristic which, on the other hand, allows us to distinguish marble from stone is the fact that the latter is an “unpolishable” building rock, born from a natural aggregation of minerals, while marble can be easily polished through a simple solution of water and bicarbonate to be sprayed on the surface.