The Use and Durability of Marble
How is marble used?
Buildings and sculptures from ancient Greece such as the Acropolis and the Pergamon Altar, the Nike from Samothrace and the Venus from Milo are made of Greek marble. In the Roman Empire, statues of honor made of marble were reserved for gods as well as the emperor and his family members. Civilians, on the other hand, were commonly honored with bronze statues. Marble statues of them were only placed in private rooms or on graves. Many works of art from the Italian Renaissance, such as Michelangelo’s Pietà, David and Moses, are made from Italian Carrara marble.
Due to the great importance of art history and the very special material properties, which are not comparable with sandstones and other sediments, the conservation of marble is a separate field of research.
Marbles are sought after in interior design today. They are used as floor and stair coverings and as tiles. They are coveted sculptural materials, especially Carrara marble. Due to their sensitivity to acids (vinegar, wine, citrus fruits, and strong cleaning agents), untreated marbles are not recommended for use in kitchens or as kitchen worktops. Staining can occur. However, due to their composition (silanes, siloxanes), stain protection treatments are also not without controversy. Dolomite marble shows much higher resistance to amino sulfonic acid or fruit acids than the calcite marble.
Facade panels made of natural stone with a thickness of 30 to 40 mm and an air layer of at least 2 cm have been anchored in front of the thermal insulation behind them since the mid-1960s. Significant bends (so-called keyings) have been found on a series of marble slabs attached to facades, which lead to static problems in well-known marble-clad buildings, such as the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, the Grande Arche de la Defense in Paris and the Aon Center in Chicago led. The bends mainly result from the moisture in the panels on the front and back, as well as during the day and night changes and weathering processes on the surfaces, with effects on the attachment points. The capping of the marble has led to a costly replacement of entire facades and to an image problem, which has been reflected in the drop in production rates in the marble industry. There are definitely differences in the respective types of marble that must be taken into account in specialist planning. Exterior marble facades that are extremely weathered appear to be of little use north of the Alps.
In contrast to the German-speaking countries, in Mediterranean countries and France, marbles and limestones are naturally used for kitchen worktops, sinks and other everyday objects in the living area, but also outdoors (e.g. as curbs, benches or containers for young trees). Acceptance of wear and tear on any material is a question of people’s attitudes to ubiquitous signs of wear. When installing polished marble floors, depending on the use, matt running zones can become clear relatively quickly. This phenomenon applies to all polished stone floors made of carbonate minerals. In individual cases, this can also occur with granites.
The absorbency of the marbles and limestones, which is often perceived as disturbing, is a question of the choice of material. It always depends on the porosity of the respective natural stone. There are marbles and limestones that have a porosity below 1 percent. All marbles are sensitive to acid rain and acids. Individual granites and gneisses also have a specific sensitivity to acids.
Rounded marble stones are used to make stone carpets.
Marble in the finest powder form is also used as an abrasive in toothpaste and as a filler or coating color for high-quality papers or in primers for panel painting, also as white pigment or white mineral in plasters and wall paints.