The beauty of marble
Few materials evoke luxury living as simply and effectively as marble. It has been used for some of the world’s most noteworthy structures, from the Pantheon in Rome to the Palace of Versailles in France. Marble is a rock, formed by heat and pressure changes to an existing rock such as a sedimentary one. Recrystallization usually makes it harder, and able to take a beautiful polish. The characteristic swirls and veins of many coloured marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay or silt, which were originally present in the sedimentary rock.
Favoured by artists since ancient times, it flourished during the Italian Renaissance. Michelangelo chiselled it into the statue of ‘David’, a masterpiece that helped shape the Western concept of aesthetics. The Georgians, in particular, perfected the craftsmanship of marble. In the 18th and 19th century, many stately homes, and even more modest residences, possessed wonderful samples of decorative marble.
The colours and patterns of different marbles vary enormously, and each is unique to a particular quarry around the world, in limited amounts. Every single piece will be unique.
Michaelangelo’s David, for example, was carved from Carrarra marble from Tuscany. This is a slightly softer, white marble which not only has a relative resistance to shattering (making it easier to carve) but also it allows light to penetrate several millimetres into the stone before being scattered out, resulting in the characteristic waxy look which gives “life” to the sculpture.
In the UK there are a handful of decorative stones available. Most are called ‘marble’ though they are only partly recrystallized. Local examples are Ashburton marble, Petit-tor, Stoneycombe and Plymouth marble. These decorative stones are mostly grey and black, and often contain coral fossils.
Marble’s artistic and historical heritage has endowed the material with a considerable degree of cultural power. It has become a global symbol of refined taste and nobility. If looked after it is a permanent sharing of nature’s colour palette, and a glimpse at the creation of the Earth.
The marble interiors trend 2015 – Why is it due a comeback?
Over the past few decades, interiors fashion has tended to favour cheaper man-made materials. These materials are often mass produced, and do not wear well. It has become evident that consumer values are now changing, and that people are starting to invest more in high-quality materials that have an inherent value, a history and a longevity.
However, not all marble products are created equal. Whilst new technology in the marble trade has allowed some designers to recreate techniques that previously would have taken a traditional craftsman months, if not years, to do by hand, it has also led to widespread manufactured ‘ranges’ of inferior marble items. These items are often imported and use marbles from modern quarries that tend to look lifeless and inexpensive. Often not fit for purpose, interiors using these marbles are renewed constantly.
Consumers looking for a good investment should instead look for more ‘one-off’ marble items that are preferably sourced from quarries beginning in antiquity. Objects of rarity and quality do not need replacing. Handmade pieces also embody the energy of the craftsman. Indeed, there is life in handmade objects.
What are its different uses?
Marble has many uses, both practical and decorative:
- In architecture it is used in exterior walls and veneers, flooring, decorative features, stairways and walkways. Typically it works very well in bathrooms and kitchens in this regard.
- The most common place to see marble is at the fireplace, where marble surrounds provide an elegant focal point to the room. It is also used for both outdoor and indoor sculpture.
- Console tables and coffee tables are also respected items of furniture and a perfect place to display highly-prized decorative stones in limited space.
Hurley Marble are based in Brampford Speke, Exeter. They specialise in bespoke marble inlay tables, fireplaces and artefacts, made using only the finest rare marbles and traditional techniques. Please visit www.hurleymarble.co.uk for more information.