Marble is a non-foliated metamorphic rock, which forms when limestone is subjected to heat and pressure, which usually occurs at convergent plate boundaries of the Earth’s crust. Some marble also forms when hot magma heats limestone or dolostone.
Marble is composed mainly of mineral calcite (CaCO3), which recrystallizes under heat and pressure, forming a rock that is a mass of interlocking calcite crystals. During the transformation process from limestone to marble, the calcite recrystallizes, thereby changing the texture of the rock, thereby creating the specks which sparkle in the light.
Since Marble is strong and durable as well as soft and porous, it can be carved into intricate, yet long-lasting pieces, be they artistic or structural. Its beautiful colour, which shines when polished, and its ability to hold detail are other characteristics, which make marble such a sought-after stone.
Italy is home to a number of world-renown and stunning types of marble. The most famous is that hailing from the town of C§arrara in modern-day Tuscany, where the quarries are said to have produced more marble than any other place on earth. Typically this marble is white or blue-grey in colour, denoting a high-quality marble, containing few impurities. It is particularly popular for use in sculpture and building décor. Notably the Basilica of Massa is built entirely of Carrara marble, while the old Ducal Palace of Massa amply showcases this precious stone. The Pantheon, Michelangelo’s David and London’s Marble Arch were all made of this type of marble.
One of the various marbles quarried in Carrara is Pavonazzo marble. Also known as pavonazzetto, the name for this type of marble derives from pavone, which means peacock in Italian. The name is due to the red, violet, or purple veins found in this type of marble, which was used by the ancient Romans.
The town of Verona – which acted as a backdrop to Shakespeare’s love-crossed Romeo and Juliet – also produced the Red Verona marble, which is actually a rich, dark, nodular and veined limestone. The baptistery of Verona’s Cathedral is carved entirely out of this spectacular marble.
The marble hailing from Siena is of a rich yellow with violet, red, blue or white veins and is frequently quarried from the low mountains region of Siena. This marble is especially prized for its uniqueness and beauty and has been put to magnificently good use in Siena’s Cathedral.
Use of marble in and from Italy dates back to the time of Ancient Rome and the Italians have certainly held up to the traditions and skills of their forefathers in working with and utilizing the precious stone, for both structural and decorative purposes.