Marble has been highly prized as a building material since ancient times. The ancient Greeks and Romans used marble extensively for building and artistic purposes like sculpture.
Marble is a natural stone that begins as limestone before being recrystallized into marble by geological pressures. The characteristic veins are due to mineral impurities present in the limestone. Marble naturally occurs in a range of colours and patterns, from bright whites to deep blacks.
Over the centuries, marble has remained a popular building material. These days, it’s synonymous with luxury and sophistication and it carries a hefty price tag compared with other similar building materials.
Marble is commonly used for benchtops, flooring and walls.
If you’re considering using marble around the home, it’s worth knowing a bit about the different types of marble available (as well as the alternatives to marble) so you can make the most informed decision.
- White marble
When most people think of marble, they think of white marble. White marble comes in various shades of white and cream and usually features black, grey and even gold veining.
Three of the world’s most famous marble varieties – Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario – are white marbles.
- Carrara marble
Carrara marble has been prized since ancient times. Quarried near the Italian town of Carrara, this famous marble is generally white to blue-grey with a feathered veining pattern. The grey flecking and soft veining creates a more subtle and subdued appearance than many other types of marble. A more affordable choice than other high-end types of marble, Carrara is a popular choice for benchtops, splashbacks, feature walls and flooring.
- Calacatta marble
Calacatta marble is also quarried near Carrara and is one of the most highly prized marble varieties in the world. A sumptuous white marble, it’s perfect for creating classic, luxurious statement pieces.
Calacatta typically has a lush white field with thick veining ranging in colour from dramatic golds to brown, beige and dark greys. The veining tends to not be linear, which helps to create bold, eye-catching patterns.
- Statuario marble
Statuario marble is also quarried near Carrara in Italy. It’s arguably the highest quality marble available. Since quarry output is quite low (and demand is high) it commands very high prices.
Statuario is renowned for its creamy, luminous white field and fluid, bold grey and gold veining. It immediately evokes feelings of luxury and classical style.
Because of its high cost, it’s best suited to smaller statement pieces and decorative purposes.
- Black marble
Black marble is an imposing choice, but used wisely it can create some truly stunning effects. Best suited to large, well lit spaces, black marble can overwhelm and create an ominous shadowy effect in smaller rooms. It’s a good option for feature flooring, splashbacks or decorative statements.
Other Marble Colours
Besides the most common whites and blacks, marble is available in a range of other colours including browns, greys, reds and pinks.
Brown marble can include earthy and chocolate tones and can be great for flooring and benchtops. Grey marble spans a range of colours situated somewhere between white and black. Red and pink marble are vibrant, startling options and, when used sparingly, can create amazing effects.
Downsides to marble
While marble looks stunning, it does have its downsides. The most obvious is the cost. Compared to other comparable stones, marble is extremely expensive. It’s also not as durable and has a tendency to chip and scratch. Marble is also more prone to staining than other similar stones.
Alternatives to Marble
If you’re having second thoughts about using marble around the house, there are some other options that still look fantastic, but don’t have the downsides of marble.
Granite is one of the toughest natural stones available. It won’t chip or scratch and it’s resistant to stains. It’s also available in a range of beautiful natural colours and patterns.
- Super white dolomite
Super white dolomite is a naturally occurring white stone with rich quartz veining. While it looks similar to marble, it’s considerably cheaper and less prone to damage and staining.
Quartz slabs tend to be fabricated from natural quartz and can often feature small amounts of glass or metallic flecks for patterning. Like granite, quartz is incredibly tough and non-porous, which means it won’t stain and doesn’t need sealing.
The final decision
Before you make your final decision, it’s worth having a think about the different options available. If you have your heart set on marble, then be prepared for a surface that changes over time and develops its own character. If you want something tough, practical and low maintenance, then you might want to consider one of the alternatives to marble.