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How to Shop for Marble

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There's no denying the appeal of marble in the home—it's one of the most prized materials in kitchens and baths. To shed some light on the buying process, we interviewed expert Arthur Moloian, senior manager of merchandising at Ann Sacks Tile & Stone. He shares information on the increasingly popular strains of marble, advice on how to shop for marble, maintenance musts, engineered alternatives that offer the look of natural stone without all of the fuss, and words of wisdom.
  • 
  What are the five most popular types of marble to use in the kitchen? 
Current design trends have strongly favored classic white marbles, many of which come from the Carrara region of Italy. Strong for the last few years this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. These stones are on the pricier side (compared with marbles from China and Turkey) but of the five below, Carrara and Venatino are at the lower range, and then Statuary, Arabascato and Calacatta are at the top of the price range. Pricing ranges considerably based on the specific stone color and veining quality, fabrication detail, fabricator, project location, etc. A Carrara countertop can range from $70-125 per square foot fabricated and installed. Calacatta can be double that or more. Each of these stones is further complicated by numerous sub ranges of color and aesthetic quality. Hand select your slabs when possible. There are many marbles in the world, and some less expensive variations; however, the classics from Carrara are the most sought after and in highest demand. All of these stones, the most popular currently, are from the same region of Carrara, Italy in the north west coast of the country. While Carrara marble is the most common, all the other marbles noted below run adjacent to or right through the Carrara veins in the mountain.
Carrara is the most common and classic marble in this category makes up most of the quarries supply in this region. The stone is a soft grey white background with a subtle and diffused light to medium grey veining throughout the range.
Venatino is a whiter cousin of Carrara, quarried at an adjacent mountain range, this stone is often called White Carrara because it typically has a much whiter background than standard Carrara.
Statuary is defined by a bright white background color with much stronger often thick heavy dark grey vein running through the stone. The patterns are dramatic and stunning. This is a stone for drama.
Arabascato is also a dramatic stone with a wild pattern of veins that form intersecting oval patterns in varying colors of gold, yellow, grey, black, orange, green on a warm white background. No two slabs look alike so it is important to select your slabs. These slabs are typically warmer in color than the previous three.
Calacatta—Calacatta Borghini, Calacatta Gold, Calacatta Viagli, numerous others)—is the most in demand at the moment and has a gorgeous honey white background color with rich and occasionally strong gold and grey veining. The colors are warm. Calacatta however is much more limited and due to high demand worldwide, the pieces have gone very high, especially for the most beautiful slabs.

    What are the five most popular types of marble to use in the kitchen?

    Current design trends have strongly favored classic white marbles, many of which come from the Carrara region of Italy. Strong for the last few years this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. These stones are on the pricier side (compared with marbles from China and Turkey) but of the five below, Carrara and Venatino are at the lower range, and then Statuary, Arabascato and Calacatta are at the top of the price range. Pricing ranges considerably based on the specific stone color and veining quality, fabrication detail, fabricator, project location, etc. A Carrara countertop can range from $70-125 per square foot fabricated and installed. Calacatta can be double that or more. Each of these stones is further complicated by numerous sub ranges of color and aesthetic quality. Hand select your slabs when possible. There are many marbles in the world, and some less expensive variations; however, the classics from Carrara are the most sought after and in highest demand.
     
    All of these stones, the most popular currently, are from the same region of Carrara, Italy in the north west coast of the country. While Carrara marble is the most common, all the other marbles noted below run adjacent to or right through the Carrara veins in the mountain.

    • Carrara is the most common and classic marble in this category makes up most of the quarries supply in this region. The stone is a soft grey white background with a subtle and diffused light to medium grey veining throughout the range.
    • Venatino is a whiter cousin of Carrara, quarried at an adjacent mountain range, this stone is often called White Carrara because it typically has a much whiter background than standard Carrara.
    • Statuary is defined by a bright white background color with much stronger often thick heavy dark grey vein running through the stone. The patterns are dramatic and stunning. This is a stone for drama.
    • Arabascato is also a dramatic stone with a wild pattern of veins that form intersecting oval patterns in varying colors of gold, yellow, grey, black, orange, green on a warm white background. No two slabs look alike so it is important to select your slabs. These slabs are typically warmer in color than the previous three.
    • Calacatta—Calacatta Borghini, Calacatta Gold, Calacatta Viagli, numerous others)—is the most in demand at the moment and has a gorgeous honey white background color with rich and occasionally strong gold and grey veining. The colors are warm. Calacatta however is much more limited and due to high demand worldwide, the pieces have gone very high, especially for the most beautiful slabs.
  • 
  For someone looking for a lot of veining, what types of marble should they consider? 
For a lot of veining, Calacatta, Statuary, and Arabascato marbles seem to be the most popular. Also look at Ermosa/Idyllwild, a linear veined stone from Canada, Montclair Danby from Vermont, or Nero Marquina for dark black with dramatic white veins. Also, any stone with Breccia in the name would have typically wilder broken or fractured patterning and often many colors within the slabs. Veining patterns for each slab are completely unique. Each piece can be a one of a kind, so when possible arrange to select your slab in person with your fabricator. There is a large assortment of more colorful veined marbles from which to chose including browns, greens, whites, reds, and yellows.

    For someone looking for a lot of veining, what types of marble should they consider?

    For a lot of veining, Calacatta, Statuary, and Arabascato marbles seem to be the most popular. Also look at Ermosa/Idyllwild, a linear veined stone from Canada, Montclair Danby from Vermont, or Nero Marquina for dark black with dramatic white veins. Also, any stone with Breccia in the name would have typically wilder broken or fractured patterning and often many colors within the slabs. Veining patterns for each slab are completely unique. Each piece can be a one of a kind, so when possible arrange to select your slab in person with your fabricator. There is a large assortment of more colorful veined marbles from which to chose including browns, greens, whites, reds, and yellows.

  • 
  For someone looking for more subtle veining, what's a good type of marble to purchase? 
Carrara, Crema Marfil, Crema Delicato, Bardiglio, Statuarietto (this is a relative of Statuary but has smaller finer veining). There are also some soft linear veined stones that are exceptionably livable and easy on the eye such as our Athens Silver Cream and Athens Grey which can be known by many names in the market.

    For someone looking for more subtle veining, what's a good type of marble to purchase?

    Carrara, Crema Marfil, Crema Delicato, Bardiglio, Statuarietto (this is a relative of Statuary but has smaller finer veining). There are also some soft linear veined stones that are exceptionably livable and easy on the eye such as our Athens Silver Cream and Athens Grey which can be known by many names in the market.

  • 
  We often see white stone in the projects we publish, but what are some of the more colorful/exotic strains that are gaining momentum in the marketplace? 
Oh, the list is endless. If you want to make a dramatic statement, each slab yard or marble resource will have numerous one-of-a-kind pieces. Some that come immediately to mind are Arabascato, which offers a range of stone choices; Cippolino, with a surface broken by rich green and white veining; Paonazzo; and Venato Fantastico.

    We often see white stone in the projects we publish, but what are some of the more colorful/exotic strains that are gaining momentum in the marketplace?

    Oh, the list is endless. If you want to make a dramatic statement, each slab yard or marble resource will have numerous one-of-a-kind pieces. Some that come immediately to mind are Arabascato, which offers a range of stone choices; Cippolino, with a surface broken by rich green and white veining; Paonazzo; and Venato Fantastico.

  • 
  What trend isn't going away anytime soon?
White classic marbles are stronger than ever and continue to be important. Especially the classics Calacatta, Carrara, and Statuary all from the Carrara region of Italy.

    What trend isn't going away anytime soon?

    White classic marbles are stronger than ever and continue to be important. Especially the classics Calacatta, Carrara, and Statuary all from the Carrara region of Italy.

  • 
  What are the best practices to keep natural marble countertops in good condition?
Marble can have delicate properties which are not always suitable for countertops.  These materials can be porous to a degree (staining risk), they can scratch (especially visible with polished finishes), and can etch with acidic products such as lemons, wine, cola or some harsh cleaners. All that said, marble still has strong appeal. It is extremely important to set expectations and understand what characteristics and patina can and will develop using marble for a counter surface. Then there are simple things you can do to minimize any risks.
Seal the stone with a quality penetrating sealer. There are many options available including more eco-friendly waterbased solutions. Sealing will reduce the chance of pigment staining.
Wipe up liquids quickly. Sealing does not protect 100 percent, so it is important to wipe up spills or stains quickly before they penetrate the sealer.
Use cutting boards to avoid scratching. Marble hardness is much lower than steel or other metals and cutting directly on the stone will cause scratching. Use a cutting board to avoid scratching and also to minimize food staining or direct contact with acidic foods.
Avoid acids directly on surface. Acidic elements will etch the stone dulling the finish, especially evident with polished stones. Acids include liquor, soda, tomatoes, wine, and lemons. Use cutting boards and coasters and wipe up spills quickly to minimize this issue.
Consider a honed finish. Acids etch marble and are sometimes unavoidable. A honed finish will still etch but due to the low sheen of this finish, etching is less visible. Polished finishes are popular but will definitely show scratches and etching more strongly.
Appreciate the character. Be open to allowing the stone to develop character. The first etch mark or scratch is the hardest but overtime, especially if the surface is used frequently in a family friendly setting, the stone will develop a time worn and timeless character that many appreciate. Again the first mark is the hardest.
Refinish. Remember that true natural marble surfaces can always be refinished with moderate expense. A stone refinisher can rehone or polish the surface making the surface look new again. 

    What are the best practices to keep natural marble countertops in good condition?

    Marble can have delicate properties which are not always suitable for countertops.  These materials can be porous to a degree (staining risk), they can scratch (especially visible with polished finishes), and can etch with acidic products such as lemons, wine, cola or some harsh cleaners. All that said, marble still has strong appeal. It is extremely important to set expectations and understand what characteristics and patina can and will develop using marble for a counter surface. Then there are simple things you can do to minimize any risks.

    • Seal the stone with a quality penetrating sealer. There are many options available including more eco-friendly waterbased solutions. Sealing will reduce the chance of pigment staining.
    • Wipe up liquids quickly. Sealing does not protect 100 percent, so it is important to wipe up spills or stains quickly before they penetrate the sealer.
    • Use cutting boards to avoid scratching. Marble hardness is much lower than steel or other metals and cutting directly on the stone will cause scratching. Use a cutting board to avoid scratching and also to minimize food staining or direct contact with acidic foods.
    • Avoid acids directly on surface. Acidic elements will etch the stone dulling the finish, especially evident with polished stones. Acids include liquor, soda, tomatoes, wine, and lemons. Use cutting boards and coasters and wipe up spills quickly to minimize this issue.
    • Consider a honed finish. Acids etch marble and are sometimes unavoidable. A honed finish will still etch but due to the low sheen of this finish, etching is less visible. Polished finishes are popular but will definitely show scratches and etching more strongly.
    • Appreciate the character. Be open to allowing the stone to develop character. The first etch mark or scratch is the hardest but overtime, especially if the surface is used frequently in a family friendly setting, the stone will develop a time worn and timeless character that many appreciate. Again the first mark is the hardest.
    • Refinish. Remember that true natural marble surfaces can always be refinished with moderate expense. A stone refinisher can rehone or polish the surface making the surface look new again.



       
  • 
   What type of maintenance is to be expected?
 Daily cleaning with a non acidic cleaner. We recommended using products specifically formulated for natural stone. Avoid harsh abrasives than can scratch or dull the stone.
Antibacterial/disinfectant. There are also cleaning products that are antibacterial as well. Many quality brands are available from hardware or stone supply stores.
Heavy clearing/stains. For heavier staining there are stronger stain removers that can be used for more stubborn stains. Stronger options exist depending on the nature or difficulty of the stain.
Sealing. It is important to seal the stone prior to use. We recommend at least two sealing applications. It is important to reseal the stone periodically depending upon use but every one to two years is recommended.

     What type of maintenance is to be expected?

    •  Daily cleaning with a non acidic cleaner. We recommended using products specifically formulated for natural stone. Avoid harsh abrasives than can scratch or dull the stone.
    • Antibacterial/disinfectant. There are also cleaning products that are antibacterial as well. Many quality brands are available from hardware or stone supply stores.
    • Heavy clearing/stains. For heavier staining there are stronger stain removers that can be used for more stubborn stains. Stronger options exist depending on the nature or difficulty of the stain.
    • Sealing. It is important to seal the stone prior to use. We recommend at least two sealing applications. It is important to reseal the stone periodically depending upon use but every one to two years is recommended.
  • 
  What are good alternative materials to natural stone that will give the look of marble without the maintenance?
Natural Quartzite. This type of stone has the best of both worlds. They are colorful and have beautiful veining like marble and also have excellent durability and performance like granite. Quartzites are the best alternative to marble when looking for natural stone. There is a beautiful classic qhite quartzite but also some brilliantly color ones such as Azul Macauba.
Quartz Surfaces or Engineered Stone. These have been popular for a while and offer a durable surface that can also be fabricated like stone. They are manmade so they are more predictable but often more bland aesthetically. They are great when considering simple unveined stones but their aesthetic value drops considerably when they attempt to replicate the unique veining of natural marbles.
Porcelain Slabs. Porcelain has been used to create large slabs with marble patterns for a few years now. Some are better than others. Polished finishes look more realistic than the matte finishes. These can often be fabricated for clean line modern slab look counters but no fancy carved or rounded edge details. In recent years they have been looking more realistic. Ann Sacks has just launched a line that replicates Calacatta marble called Pietra Calacatta porcelain.

    What are good alternative materials to natural stone that will give the look of marble without the maintenance?

    • Natural Quartzite. This type of stone has the best of both worlds. They are colorful and have beautiful veining like marble and also have excellent durability and performance like granite. Quartzites are the best alternative to marble when looking for natural stone. There is a beautiful classic qhite quartzite but also some brilliantly color ones such as Azul Macauba.
    • Quartz Surfaces or Engineered Stone. These have been popular for a while and offer a durable surface that can also be fabricated like stone. They are manmade so they are more predictable but often more bland aesthetically. They are great when considering simple unveined stones but their aesthetic value drops considerably when they attempt to replicate the unique veining of natural marbles.
    • Porcelain Slabs. Porcelain has been used to create large slabs with marble patterns for a few years now. Some are better than others. Polished finishes look more realistic than the matte finishes. These can often be fabricated for clean line modern slab look counters but no fancy carved or rounded edge details. In recent years they have been looking more realistic. Ann Sacks has just launched a line that replicates Calacatta marble called Pietra Calacatta porcelain.
  • 
  Any final words of wisdom?
If you are doing a larger job needing more than one slab, you may consider slabs from the same block as they will be matched more closely for color and pattern. In some cases you can book match slabs from the same block to create spectacular pattern effects.

    Any final words of wisdom?

    If you are doing a larger job needing more than one slab, you may consider slabs from the same block as they will be matched more closely for color and pattern. In some cases you can book match slabs from the same block to create spectacular pattern effects.

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