Marble 101: Everything You Need to Know About Marble Countertops

Carrara Marble Quarry in Carrara Italy

Marble has always been a highly sought-after choice for countertops and valuable addition to a home. It is a versatile stone for countless designs and applications from polished countertops to cool flooring. There is something about marble that conveys a sense of luxury and value. It is sourced from all around the world in mountainous regions of North America, South America, Asia, and Europe—from Colorado to Brazil and Italy. Every slab of marble is unique with its own colors and pattern. If you are interested in adding marble to your home and you are overwhelmed with options, this guide will go over the classifications of marble countertops, colors, cost, and much more!

Marble Classification

Marble is one of the most luxurious natural stones. Its classification depends on many factors including where it is from, its absorption rate, and mineral composition. There are two categories of marble – calcitic or “soft” marble and dolomitic or “hard” marble. While marble is considered more porous than granite or quartz, each type of marble has different absorption rates. The lower the absorption rate, the lower the risk of stains.

Dolomite Marble Countertops

Dolomitic marble is quite common and is composed of calcium magnesium carbonate. This type of marble behaves like quartzite and is largely sourced from Italy, India, and Brazil. Fantasy Brown, Portinari, Dark Emperador, Bianco Carrera, Thassos, and Super White are classified as “hard” marbles. Though it is more common, dolomitic marble rivals the high-end marbles in affordability, hardness, and resistance to wear.

Calcite Marble Countertops

The largest source of calcite marble is found in Carrara, Italy. While it may appear similar to dolomitic marble, its composition is entirely different. These white marbles are composed of calcium carbonate, which reacts quickly to acids making them prone to etching. The greater the extent of calcite the less durable, whiter, and more extravagant the marble. Carrara, Mont Blanc, Calacatta, Statuary, Blanco Macael, Botticino Fiorito, and Blanco Ibiza are all calcitic marbles. However, not all white marbles are “soft”. Super white, Fantasy White, Bianco Carrara, and Thassos are all considered “hard” marbles.

Common Sources of Marble

Marble is sourced from all over the world, but the four countries that quarry over half of the world’s marble are Italy, Spain, India, and China. Turkey, Greece, the United States, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom also export large quantities of marble. Within the United States, marble is sourced from the mountainous regions of Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. Italy and China quarry the most white marble – the most sought-after being Calacatta, Carrara, and Statuary. While India is considered the largest source of green marble with about 2,000 quarries that have been operating for decades.

Types of Marble Countertop

Different types of marble are formed when limestone and various minerals are compacted together with an immense amount of heat and pressure. Each type has its own unique color, pattern, absorption, and durability. No two slabs of marble are identical, which is why they are so popular. Below is a break down of what each color has to offer so you can determine what kind of marble will work best for your home.

White Marble

White is one of the most sought-after types of marble because of its historical significance and classic aesthetic. It is well known not only for its use in art and architecture, but for its breathtaking beauty and purity. The different types of white marble are:

Calacatta

Named from its discovered location in Italy, Calacatta is one of the most luxurious types of marble due to its rarity. There are nine subcategories of Calacatta including: Calacatta Gold, Calacatta Michelangelo, Calacatta Borghini, Calacatta Crestola Tedeschi 1, Calacatta Crestola Tedeschi 2, Calacatta Grey, Calacatta Oro, Calacatta Vagli, and Calacatta Vagli Rosata. This Italian stone has been beloved for centuries dating back to classical Rome, the Renaissance, and the Baroque period. It is commonly mistaken for Carrara because of its distinct similarities in the color and it is quarried in the same location. However, there are notable differences such as Calacatta’s dark and thick veining in contrast to Carrara’s more intricate veining. Calacatta is at the top of the marble hierarchy. Its lavish streaked veins give each slab a unique style that would be perfect for your home.

Carrara

Carrara, also known as Bianco Carrara, is the most common and cost-effective white marble. It is sourced from the Alpine region of Italy – an area widely recognized for producing the finest marble. While Carrara is more common, it is one of the most adored stones in history particularly during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Michelangelo even used it in his sculpture of David. Carrara’s beauty and uniformity make it well-suited for both classic and contemporary kitchens.

Statuary

Named for its popularity among sculptors, Statuary is quarried from the same area as Carrara and Calacatta. This bright white marble has precise, grey veins that dart across its refined background. Statuary marble can increase your home’s value and add a sense of elegance to any room. Because it is one of the most coveted marbles on the market, it does have an extravagant price point. However, if you are meticulous about cleaning up and prefer a whiter marble, splurging for a premium marble is definitely worth it. Statuary is perfect for floors, walls, and contemporary kitchens.

Super White

Super White is a dramatic white marble with sweeping deep grey veins. It is sourced from Brazil who is renowned for its dolomitic marbles. This marble is much more cost-effective than its European rivals – perfect for homeowners looking for gorgeous countertops on a budget. With its durability, easy maintenance, and elegance, Super White marble is a great option for countertops, kitchen waterfall islands, and floors.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc or “White Mountain” marble definitely makes a striking impression. Quarried in Brazil, it is a lovely combination of snowy white and silky gray veining reminiscent of the Italian mountain that it was named after. Mont Blanc is perfect for home remodels whether it is used for floors, walls, or countertops. Each slab has an elegant, ethereal look that speaks for itself.

Portinari

Portinari Marble Slab Countertop Slab Color Sample

Portinari is a dramatic white marble with soft flowing veins of blue, grey, and brown. It is a “hard” marble quarried predominantly from Brazil that has been used since the times of the early Greeks and Romans as a symbol of elegance and social status. It pairs well with neutral colors and cabinets since it is a statement piece that should be the center of your design. With its durability, elegance, and cost-effectiveness, Portinari marble is the perfect choice for countertops, walls, and floors.

Dover White

Dover White marble countertop slab color sample

Dover White, also known as Caribbean Island, is a captivating palette of bright white with swirls of creamy taupe, charcoal, and a subtle silver shimmer. Sourced in Brazil, it is a dolomitic marble that is a popular choice of homeowners who favor exotic looks and durability. Dover White countertops with a honed finish paired with neutral cabinets are perfect for a classic look, while a polished finish and grey cabinets would fit a modern aesthetic. The elegant patterns and warm colors of Dover White light up every room, making it perfect for all indoor and outdoor applications.

Blanco Macael

Named after the Almeria town of Macael, Blanco Macael is a gorgeous pure white marble with scattered bluish veining. It is no wonder that this marble also known as “white gold”. Sourced in Spain, it is a calcitic marble that is popular in luxury homes and hotels. The options are limitless with this marble whether it is used in bathrooms, kitchens, countertops, or floors. It is perfect for minimalist or nordic designs paired with either neutral or dark cabinets.

Blanco Ibiza

Blanco Ibiza, named after the capital of the Pityusic Islands, is a sparkling white stone with wispy grey and brown veins. This “soft” marble is sourced from Spain – one of the leading exporters of marble in the world. Blanco Ibiza is a versatile stone perfect for living rooms, kitchens, offices, and floors. It pairs well with neutral cabinets and makes any area look spacious with its illuminating touch.

Brown Marble

Brown is a distinguished color in its own right due to its versatility. Brown marble has a wide array of shades that add a bit of drama and depth. This type of marble is simultaneously relaxing and adventurous. It works best in well-lit spaces to ensure the design isn’t overshadowed.

Dark Emperador

Emperador Dark is a gorgeous stone famously used to construct Spanish colonial buildings in the Iberic Peninsula. Quarried in Spain, this captivating marble features a range of rich browns with gray and white veins. It is a dolomitic marble from the same region as Crema Marfil. Emperador Dark is the most popular brown marble on the market with three levels: First, Commercial, and Classic. Each variation has different price points and levels of quality – with the First being the most refined comprised of minimal calcite and the Classic featuring large amounts of calcite and white spotting. It is perfect for bathrooms and kitchens with a natural color palette and cream or brown cabinets for a bold, contemporary look.

Fantasy Brown

Fantasy Brown Marble countertop slab color sample

Fantasy Brown, also known as Savar, features a stunning pattern of white, grey, and black on a cream background. Sourced in northern India, it is in a category all of its own with its marble features and granite-like durability. This “hard” marble is a popular choice for homeowners who favor bold designs as well as durability. Fantasy Brown countertops paired with a Carrara marble subway tile backsplash and neutral or wood-toned cabinets create a contemporary look and add a sense of warmth to your designs.

Cream Marble

Cream marble blends perfectly with other natural colors, such as ivory and beige, conveying a sense of serenity. It is one of the most popular building materials among architects and interior designers.

Crema Marfil

Crema Marfil is a Spanish marble that is quarried in Murcia. It is a creamy beige with soft veins of yellow, cinnamon, and white. It is an extremely beautiful stone that exudes warmth and style to its surroundings perfect for monochromatic designs and white kitchens. Crema Marfil also has three levels based on value and availability that include Standard, Commercial, and Classic. This luxurious stone pairs well with Emperador Dark marble, stainless steel appliances, as well as neutral and wood-toned cabinets.

Botticino Fiorito

Botticino Fiorito Marble Slab Countertop Slab Color Sample

Botticino Fiorito is a captivating combination of light beige and swirls of white. Quarried in Italy, it is a calcitic marble that has been used in architecture since the time of ancient Rome. Botticino Fiorito marble is a symbol of tradition and refined taste. It is a budget-friendly Italian marble that is perfect for professional and commercial spaces. This stylish stone goes well with brown or neutral cabinets for a sophisticated, modern design.

Green Marble

The rarest color of marble, green is bold and serene. It brings to mind an image of a warm, tropical forest, creating a tranquil ambiance. Homeowners who are looking to freshen up their home should consider green marble for a bold, unique style.

Some of the noteworthy types of green marble include:

Verde Indio

With its alluring appearance, Verde Indio marble will not fail to impress. This emerald green marble is evocative of the depths of the sea with veins of white and deep green. Verde Indio, also referred to as Verde Guatemala and Oasis Green, is sourced from India – a region also famous for their dolomitic marbles. This marble paired with stainless steel accents and light or honey maple cabinets creates a luxurious, exotic ambiance.

Galaxy Jade

This marble has brilliant bursts of color reminiscent of shooting stars streaming across the night sky. Galaxy Jade, also known as Green Galaxy, is quarried in China and characterized by a jade background with pearly white, grey, and black streaks. Combine it with dark-colored cabinets and white gold and silver accents for an elegant, lavish style. With its durability, elegance, and cost-effectiveness, Galaxy Jade marble is perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, and backsplashes.

Grey Marble

While grey marbles are often placed in the black or white categories, there are so many that deserve a category all of their own. If you’re looking for a stone that conveys a dramatic or tranquil look, this might be the right type for you.

Here are some of the most popular grey marble types:

Bardiglio

Bardiglio Marble Slab Countertop Slab Color Sample

Bardiglio, also known as Bardiglio Scuro, is a rare bluish grey marble with sweeping deep grey and white veins. This Italian marble is quarried in Tuscany. If you love the premium quality of marble but are looking for a moody, dramatic look, Bardiglio is the best choice for you. Polished Bardiglio countertops and grey cabinets create a contemporary look, while a honed finish and neutral cabinets would suit a Mediterranean design. From intricate and captivating mosaic backsplashes to elegant countertops, Bardiglio marble makes an impact in any space! 

Marengo Grey

Marengo Grey adds a sense of tranquility and balance that is stunning in large spaces. Sourced in Spain, this chic marble is a blend of deep grey, pearl grey, and ivory. This dolomitic marble is popular in public spaces as pavements, interior walls, and flooring due to its beauty and durability. Marengo Grey goes well with shades of grey and light wood tones for a gorgeous minimalistic look.

Marble Finishes

Cream Marble Being Ground Into Polished Finish

The most popular marble finishes are polished, honed, and leathered. A finish affects the look and performance of marble countertops; here’s what to know about each.

Polished

The most well-known finish is polished or ‘high gloss’. All manufacturers offer it, and it intensifies the color and clarity of marble. Its sheen is created through a grinding and buffing process that brings out the details of the marble’s color and veining. While polished is the least porous, etches are more visible.

Honed

Honed is a soft, matte finish that is created by sanding the marble until it has a satiny feel. This finish doesn’t show as many scratches as the polished finish. However, the honing process opens the pores of the marble, making it easier to stain.

Leathered

This finish features a leather-like texture and soft sheen. It is not reflective like the polished finish and looks best on dark marbles. Leathered countertops have taken over recent design trends because of how well they conceal fingerprints and other imperfections.

Pros and Cons of Marble Countertops

When you ask a professional if you should install marble countertops, they will say “it depends on how you use them.” Marble has acquired a reputation for being fragile and hard to maintain but don’t dismiss it too quickly. This beautiful stone has a great deal to offer. Here is everything you need to know about the strengths and weaknesses of marble.

Pros

  • Marble is available in a large range of colors
  • It can be sealed for stain protection
  • Honed Marble minimizes the appearance of etching
  • Every slab is unique
  • Marble is heat resistant
  • Natural stone increases the value of your home
  • There are marbles for any budget – lavish or affordable
  • Complements any aesthetic
  • Develops a patina over time

Cons

  • Porous material susceptible to staining
  • Some aren’t as resistant to etching
  • Requires proper care
  • Etches if exposed to acidic liquids
  • Develops a patina over time

Marble Maintenance

Caring for your marble countertops is not a complicated process. Being mindful about spills and keeping up with cleaning goes a long way. Here are some simple steps to keep your marble in pristine condition.

  • Wipe up spills when they happen. This limits the time they have to seep into your countertop.
  • Avoid powdered cleansers, tile cleaners, abrasive pads, and general “all-purpose” cleansers that may contain acidic ingredients.
  • Mild soap, warm water, and a non-abrasive towel are the best for day-to-day cleaning.
  • Use a neutral stone cleaner for tougher messes.
  • Protect the marble by using cutting boards and trivets.
  • Seal your countertop with our 15 year sealer or reseal the countertop annually

Cost of Marble Countertops

Marble Remnant Yard

Marble is not an inexpensive countertop material. However, it does have a wide price range that is typically between $40 to $100 per square foot. The price is affected by availability, cutouts, installation cost, the thickness of the slab, the type of marble, and where it is quarried. For example, a rare white Italian marble would be more expensive than a common, dolomitic marble from a local quarry.

Common Marbles

Marble countertops come in a wide range of varieties with some more common than others. The rarity of certain marbles can dramatically impact their cost. Regardless, there is a vast array of moderately priced marbles that are just as beautiful for homeowners looking to upgrade their countertops on a budget. Here are some examples of common, affordable marbles.

Pink MarbleAverages at $25 per square foot
Carrara MarbleAverages at $45-55 per square foot
Botticino FioritoAverages at $40-60 per square foot
Crema MarfilAverages at $55-65 per square foot
BardiglioAverages at $50-70 per square foot
Bianco VenatoAverages at $55-75 per square foot
(Please note prices fluctuate year-to-year and that the prices listed are only estimations.)

Premium Marbles

There are also premium marble options that have more unique colors, patterns and veining. If you’re looking to upgrade your countertops and elevate the entire feel of the room, then exploring some high end marbles would be ideal for you.

CalacattaAverages at $180 per square foot
Calacatta BorghiniAverages at $180 per square foot
Calacatta ExtraAverages at $200-250 per square foot
StatuaryAverages at $150-200 per square foot
Portoro Genuine ExtraAverages at $300 per square foot
(Please note prices fluctuate year-to-year and that the prices listed are only estimations.)

How to Save

So how can you save on kitchen countertops even if you want a material that is more expensive?

  • Work with a good fabricator that will minimize waste.
  • Shop around and get at least 3 estimates from different fabricators to ensure that you won’t be overcharged.
  • Buy a countertop that’s locally sourced to eliminate import taxes and reduce shipping costs.
  • Use remnants – leftover pieces from other jobs – whenever possible. They are a much more affordable option for smaller projects like bathrooms and sectioned kitchens.
  • Be open-minded to different types of marble, so that you’re able to find an affordable option that suits your needs.

How Do Marble Costs Compare to Other Stones?

Marble is not the most economical stone, but it is not the most expensive either. Aside from granite countertops, marble is your cheapest natural stone option.

Conclusion

Regardless of whichever marble you choose for your countertops, we have everything you need with hundreds of slabs to choose from. Whichever you choose it is sure to add a gorgeous, chic look to your space. When you’re ready to design the kitchen of your dreams, contact us for a free in-home estimate!

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