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  • Writer's pictureLewis Clark

The Timeless Allure of Carrara Marble: What Makes It So Special?

Carrara marble

Since the days of ancient Rome, Carrara marble has been a favourite among artists, architects, and designers. But what makes this Italian limestone so extraordinary, and how can you incorporate it into your life? Let’s explore the captivating history and unique characteristics of Carrara marble, along with tips on how to care for it.

The Splendour of Carrara Marble

High above the Tuscan city of Carrara, the Apuan Alps gleam with a white stone that has captivated creators for centuries. Known to the Romans as 'Luna marble,' this stone was used in iconic structures such as the Pantheon and the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. Michelangelo famously sculpted masterpieces like David and the Pietà from Carrara marble. In the UK, notable works include London's Marble Arch and the Victoria Memorial.

What is Marble?

The term 'marble' comes from the Ancient Greek words μάρμαρον (mármaron), meaning 'shining stone,' and μαρμαίρω (marmaírō), meaning 'to flash, sparkle, gleam.' Marble forms from recrystallised carbonate minerals, primarily calcite or dolomite. Its pure white colour is due to its high purity, while the characteristic swirls and veins arise from impurities like clay, silt, sand, or iron oxides.

A Brief History of Carrara Marble

Carrara’s marble quarries date back to ancient Rome. During the Middle Ages, the quarries were controlled by the Marquis Malaspina and later by powerful local families. By the 19th century, the area became notorious for housing ex-convicts and those evading justice. Despite these turbulent times, Carrara marble remained highly prized.

Today, Carrara marble is one of the world's most coveted stones, with its quarries producing more marble than anywhere else globally. Although half of the 650 quarries are abandoned, efforts are being made to enhance tourism. Visitors can now tour the quarries and explore towns like Pietrasanta, which has transformed into a charming Tuscan destination.

Carrara marble

Types of Carrara Marble

Carrara is renowned for its pure white statuario marble, although these deposits are nearly depleted, making reclaimed marble increasingly popular. The quarries also produce over a million tonnes of blue- and grey-streaked marble annually.

Caring for Carrara Marble

Carrara marble, being delicate and porous, requires careful maintenance. Coasters and placemats are essential to prevent stains from wine, tomato sauce, and other substances. Acidic products like lemon juice and conventional cleaners should be avoided. For those who embrace the natural wear and tear, designer Athena Calderone notes, “I want to see those stains. I want to remember those moments when my son spilled his ice cream.”

For those preferring a pristine look, use warm water and a high-quality detergent for cleaning.

Incorporating Carrara Marble into Your Life

Carrara marble's versatility is legendary. Whether it's kitchen countertops, dining tables, or even 3D printed sculptures, the stone adds a touch of elegance to any setting. Despite its cost, which has risen due to high demand and limited supply, reclaimed marble offers a more affordable option. Designer Lucy Hammond Giles suggests, “We often look for reclaimed marble first, though it requires expert craftsmanship to repurpose it effectively.”

For those seeking alternatives, other fine marbles like Portugal’s Estremoz White offer similar beauty at a fraction of the cost.

Carrara marble

Embrace the Legacy of Carrara Marble

Carrara marble’s timeless beauty and historical significance make it a worthwhile investment for any home. Whether you choose new or reclaimed marble, or explore other stunning varieties, bringing this iconic stone into your space will add a touch of enduring elegance.

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