Friday, 04 January 2019 14:53

Marble – what’s the difference?

    For centuries, the Carrara region of Italy has been the hub of the most prestigious and luxurious white marbles used as surfaces all around the world. Here, Gerald Culliford gives an explanation of the different types available.

    Carrara marble has been used since the time of Ancient Rome. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the marble quarries were monitored by the Cybo and Malaspina families who ruled over Massa and Carrara. The family created the ‘Office of Marble’ in 1564 to regulate the marble quarrying industry.

    By the end of the 19th century, Carrara had become a cradle of anarchism in Italy, in particular among the quarry workers. According to a New York Times article of 1894, workers in the marble quarries were among the most neglected labourers in Italy.

    Modern-day Carrara is much different, much safer and more regulated. Today it is responsible in providing us with various grades of Carrara marble (once known as Sicilian). Arabescato Corchia and Vagli, Calacatta Oro, Borghini, Michelangelo and not forgetting Statuary (Statuario).

    So, what’s the difference? Why are certain marbles worth more than others? Why can you use some marble in a bathroom but not in a kitchen? Well, the following should give you a better understanding of these materials.

    Carrara marble has been the industry’s biggest seller for many years and is normally graded by C, CD and D/Commercial (high, medium and low) mostly based on its looks rather than the integrity of the material. The grading can be quite subjective, but in general the whiter the background and more evenly balanced the veining, the better the block.

    Carrara marble is the most prolific marble being produced out of all the quarries in the Massa area, so being more readily available, the price is at the lower end of the spectrum. Although it does have a big range due to being available in construction grade right the way up to very clean whiter backgrounds, often these blocks can be named Carrara Extra or Statuarietto (Veinato) which usually means the quarry owner can sell the blocks for a high value as they have the attributes of Statuary marble which is considered to be the purest form of Carrara marble.

    Arabescato marble is a classic look mostly used in high-end bathrooms, its most common types are Arabescato Corchia and Arabescato Vagli. There are many other versions available but these two are generally held in stock and more readily available. They are also normally available in larger size blocks and still reasonably affordable on the scale of price to be able to get in 3cm-thick slabs suitable to use in the kitchen environment. 3cm slabs can be around the same price as the Brazilian Quartzites that are currently available on the market.

    Arabescato Corchia tends to have a whiter background and darker blue/grey veining with more defined oval egg shapes in the patterning.

    Arabescato Vagli has a creamier background and has much lighter grey heathery veining giving it an overall softer look which suits more pastel toned colours.

    Calacatta marble has a unique look to almost every block, the beauty of this material is its individuality. It has quite a few different looks depending on where in Carrara it is quarried, the more typical Calacatta Oro will have a slightly off-white/creamy white background with grey veins, the veining will be highlighted with gold and earthy brown colours and which can also feature small flecks of iron pyrites (fool’s gold). The direction and pattern of the veining is what gives it its individuality and when bookmatching the material can create some wonderful aesthetically pleasing natural patterns.

    Calacatta Michelangelo is another type of Calacatta we often stock, it has all the hallmark looks of Calacatta Oro except for the larger grey and gold veins, instead it has a very soft brown veining that looks like it is finely painted through the stone like the background of the ‘Creation of Adam’ in the Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo.

    Moving on to Calacatta Borghini, which is to be considered the true, original Calacatta Oro, Borghini is the family name of the quarry owner and has often produced the best blocks of Calacatta. Over many years, it has become the most sought after in the world. It has been known for these blocks to be few and far between, and as such may take a long time to source and can fetch a very high price.

    Finally, we come to Statuary or Statuario, the whitest of backgrounds with a defined grey veining, the best examples of this material have very little to no brown veins and are the cleanest blocks of white veined marble extracted from Carrara. Statuary is truly the premium luxury white marble and is the epitome of class and high quality.

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