Marble is considered one of the most luxurious yet functional building materials in our time. Marble is preferred for its unique designs and shiny smooth finish along with the natural durability and strength of the rock. The age of modern minimalist design has made it the material of choice for many luxury kitchens, bathrooms and wall cladding or floor tiles.
When I was a kid, I thought the round toy marbles we played with were carved spherical pieces of rare marble countertops. I kept hoping to one day see a smooth and shiny countertop that was as clear as my favourite marble. Of course, I have not come across one to date because my toy marble was made of glass.
However, I was not far from the truth, historically, it is said that the original marbles were made by the Egyptians from the same material as our luxury marble tiles, walls and countertops. Nevertheless, people switched and began producing the toy marbles from glass and clay because it was too costly to use marble. The name, however, was already globally accepted and thus remained the same.
History of marble
Marble is a natural stone that is formed through a form of dolomite or limestone crystallisation. Limestone in itself is a very soft ashy rock but when subjected to extreme heat and pressure for a long time, the stone’s properties change. While marble can be found in several parts of the world including India, Brazil, China and the United States, the largest deposits are found in the Mediterranean region in countries like Italy, Greece and Spain.
The name marble was derived from its Ancient Greek name ‘mamaron’ which meant ‘crystalline rock, shining stone’. The purest forms of marble have a consistent colour and can even appear to be clear. The presence of veins and spots in the marble which give its unique patterns are caused by impurities such as clay, sand and iron oxides which were mixed in with the layers of limestone as it formed.
What influences the cost of marble
The cost of marble varies greatly from place to place due to a wide range of factors. Many of the factors that we will highlight here are location specific and explain why the cost of marble can vary significantly from one country to another.
Availability in the market
The original mass producers of marble were Italians who discovered and developed marble quarries as early as the 17th century. Once they mastered the art of cutting marble, they travelled to other countries to set up marble quarries and sent the uncut stone slabs home for processing. This extra freight and foreign production made marble very expensive in the early years limiting its use to palaces and luxurious homes.
By the late 90s, countries like Brazil, India, China and South Africa had begun investing in processing equipment and producing their own marble closer to the source. Through common market forces, the influx of Chinese and Indian marble in the brought down the price of marble making it more available to the masses.
Large deposits of natural rocks like marble that are formed under pressure near tectonic plates. These are often located in remote areas and not easy to access. In many cases, the production companies incur heavy expenses to access the marble and transfer the extra costs to the final buyer. In China, the recent improvements in infrastructure to remote regions, mines and quarries has been a major influence in reducing the price of Chinese marble.
The factor that most influences the price of marble is its quality. The quality of marble is determined by the mix of minerals and the conditions under which it was formed. As of yet, the best quality raw marble comes from Italy and Brazil. Quarries in these countries have marble in its purest form. Pure marble is hard, dense and does not chip easily. It also has a consistent flow of colour both within the structure and on the surface.
Lower quality marble is brittle and has a lot of veins and patterns cutting across its face. While some people love these unique patterns, it is good to know that they are signs of weakness in the rock.
Marble is a rare rock that is found in limited locations around the world. While sourcing your marble you must always consider the cost of getting it to you. Take time to research and visit locations where the kind of marble you like has been installed and ask the users about their experience. You may find that the marble that best suits your application is not as costly as you think r you might find a savvy supplier that can deliver high-quality marble to you at an affordable price.