Let us know if this sounds familiar: You’ve narrowed down your selection for countertops from granite, quartz, quartzite and settled on marble as what you want to invest in for your home. Now when it comes to shopping for marble, there seem to be more choices for types of marble than there even were kinds of stone in the first place!
Even just a quick google search will come up with lists of 50-100 of the most common types of marble, each more exotic looking than the last. You’d be forgiven if this left you with more questions than you had before you started the search. Is there any advantage between these different types? Is it just cosmetic? How do I choose a slab I like?
We decided to put together a list of the 5 most popular choices of marble and go over what to look for when it comes to choosing a slab for yourself.
Most Popular Marble Choices:
Named after the city in northern Italy where it is traditionally quarried, Carrara marble is probably the most common marble to find around in well-appointed kitchens and bathrooms. Most often featuring soft gray streaking over white but can actually be had in gray or blue-gray colors as well. Carrara is also one of the more affordable options, especially in slabs with less dramatic or exotic streaking.
Also quarried in Carrara, Italy, many people confuse the two marbles as being the same, or possibly Carrara being upsold as Calacatta, as the latter is rarer and quite a bit more expensive. Also featuring gray streaking over white, you can see why the two would be confused for each other.
Calacatta features a purer white field and more stark and defined streaking that separates it from the featherier lines of the Carrara. Calacatta also tends to feature warm gold and copper streaking, adding to the air of luxury about the marble.
In contrast to the lighter marbles shown so far, Nero Marquina features a dark grey or pitch-black field beneath bright white or grey streaking – or sometimes none at all. This marble comes from the Marquina region of Spain.
Despite its elegant look used to great effect in black and white palette kitchens, Nero Marquina is not prohibitively expensive or particularly rare, giving you a unique look that you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for.
Also originating from Spain, Crema Marfil marble brings a warm feel with its beige to yellow field and light, generally thin streaking. This makes for a generally uniform and neutral surface that makes it perfect for kitchens and bathrooms accenting dark colored cabinets and features. Crema Marfil is also readily available and makes for classy, inoffensive use for flooring and backsplashes as well.
Ranging in tones from deep, rich browns to light tans and every shade in between, Emperador features lots of contrasting veins and blocks. Mostly coming from Turkey and Spain, this is a very busy yet undeniably elegant choice for countertops or tile flooring. Emperador also makes for stunning backsplashes or accent pieces.
How to Choose a Slab
Once you have narrowed down the type and shade of marble that you want to accent the rest of your build, there are several factors to consider when choosing a particular slab. This is where working with an expert supplier can really come in handy, as your slab selection might differ based on the size and shape of your countertop or backsplash area.
If the space is large enough to require a seem between two slabs, it might be a good idea to use a bookmatched piece in order to continue the streaking in a consistent mirrored pattern from left to right. Bookmatching is done by cutting a slab in half longways and opening the two halves away from each other like opening the pages of a book.
Another factor to consider is the direction in which you want the marble to have been cut: Vein cut or cross cut:
Vein cut: This means the marble has been cut along the veins of the streaks to show them in full width across the surface of the marble.
Cross cut: This means the marble was cut perpendicular to the veining, so you see patches of the center section of the streak, like looking at the end of a cut log.
Designers often use both for contrasting effect, such as vein cut for countertops or backsplashes and then cross cut for the tile floors.
Won’t White Marble Stain More Easily?
Unlike a white piece of clothing, white marble countertops actually tend to show less wear and etching over time than darker variations. This is because etching and hard water marks often leave white/light marks which are more difficult to see on white but can be very noticeable on darker marble. Black marble tends to show imperfections more prominently and require more upkeep to keep looking nice for this reason.
While the porosity of marble will vary from slab to slab, all marble needs to be treated regularly with a stone-safe sealer in order to protect against moisture ingress and etching.
Always Check Out Your Slab in Person
When you look on stone supplier or hardware store websites, you can order a type of marble right there, but the accompanying image is not what your specific slab will look like. You won’t be able to control how the streaking or bookmatching is done and are just rolling the dice on what you’ll end up with.
By seeing the slabs in person (especially with a designer who knows the layout of your home), you can use the natural streaking to your advantage and create a look tailored to your home specifically. Matching the marble’s natural variance to the specific project is an art all in itself, and can be jarring if not done carefully.
Have any other questions on how to choose and care for your marble and other natural stone? Our stone care experts are backed by three generations of expertise in the stone-care industry dating back to the 1950s and can help you get the most out of your stone, just give us a call at 1-800-475-STONE. To keep your stone looking its best, be sure to check out our full line of stone care products.