Italian Marble: Curiosities About the Most Valuable Varieties

Italian marbles are undisputed excellence at an international level. Indeed, marble is a truly unique material, not only because it is millenary, but also because of its incredible resistance, which makes it a timeless, unique, and precious natural stone. Precisely thanks to its color, veins, particular brightness, and the possibility of working it in many different ways, marble has always been a material greatly loved by artists, architects, and planners. But what makes this material so great?

the difference between geological marble and commercial marble

Italian marble has always evoked an idea of purity, luxury, and elegance, of which each slab is unique and unrepeatable, not to mention that the Italians were the first in the world to rationalize and perfect the methods of extracting this material. From a geological point of view, we are talking about metamorphic rocks, i.e. rocks that have undergone a transformation during the various geological eras due to the strong pressures and temperatures to which they have been subjected. In particular, the marble formation process begins with the limestones which are transformed by organizing themselves in a different way and thus becoming a new rock. In a commercial sense, however, we define marble as that category of materials with characteristics similar to those of marble, but not necessarily geological. Commercial marbles, in fact, respond to the etymological sense of the Greek term “marmaron” (“to shine”), and are rocks that become shiny through polishing processes and are used in sectors such as architecture and applied arts. Among commercial marbles, for example, there is travertine, a sedimentary rock that forms differently than geological marble.

the extraction and transport of marble in history

Between the age of the ancient Romans and modern times, the techniques of extraction and transport of marble have changed a lot: initially, the only extraction technique used consisted of trench cuts or “ceasurae”, then enlarged with iron and wood wedges, while in the 18th-century explosives were used, which speed up the excavation techniques; however, the real evolution began in the 19th century with the introduction of a cutting-edge technique: the helical wire, which allows you to cut several blocks at the same time. Finally, for about 30 years now marble production companies have been using cutting techniques with diamond wire and diamond discs, operated by numerically controlled machines that work both flat and according to pre-established angles. Obviously, the transport of marble has also changed considerably: while the ancient Romans rolled the marble downstream or used the “lizza”, which was a large wooden sled, today we transport the marble with heavy road vehicles.

the most important marble varieties from north to south

The Rosso di Verona, the Perlato di Sicilia, the Candoglia marble and the Carrara marble are certainly among the most important and precious marbles in Italy.

  • Rosso di Verona, as the name already suggests, is a marble that stands out for its color tending towards red-brick. Based on the concentration levels of iron oxide, this marble can go from red to pink. Given its unique color, this marble is mainly used for interior finishes and to make modern marble fireplaces;
  • Perlato di Sicilia, also known as “Botticino di Sicilia”, is extracted from the quarries of Custonaci, in the province of Trapani. The background of this marble is ivory in color and the veins are brown, dotted with patches that recall the texture of mother-of-pearl;
  • Candoglia marble is a pink marble that has the oldest history of all; already known in Roman times, it was used for the Milan Cathedral, but today it has become very rare and difficult to extract;
  • Carrara marble is the excellence of our country, which is divided into some variants with more or less gray veins, extracted from the Apuan Alps in Tuscany and used in sculpture, architecture, and interior décor.

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