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Marble sculpture
MFA# 1973.601


A hard, dense, crystalline stone primarily composed of Calcium carbonate. Marble is Limestone or Dolomite that has been metamorphosed with heat and pressure. Pure calcite marble is white, but impurities produce a wide variety of coloring and patterns. Marble has fine grains and polishes to a smooth, high gloss. It is used for statuary and buildings. Marble has been quarried from sites around the world since at least the seventh century BCE. Historical quarry locations and marble types include:

Marble relief
MFA# 2002.630
Polarized light micrograph of calcite
  • Greece: Paros (Parian marble), Penteli (Pentelic marble), rosso antico, Eleusinian marble
  • Turkey: Proconnesus
  • Italy: Carrara, bardiglio, Cipollino marble (cipolin), parmazo marble
  • Spain: Macael
  • Belgium: rance, Belgian black, St. Anne marble
  • France: Languedoc marble, griotte, Sarrancolin marble
  • U.S.: Vermont white statuary, Georgia white, Colorado Yule statuary, Alabama cream, Tennessee pink, Rockingham royal black.

Note: Commercially, the term 'marble' is used for any non-granite stone that can take a polish, such as Travertine, Onyx, Serpentine, and Limestone.

Synonyms and Related Terms

calcium carbonate; marmer (Ned.); Marmor (Deut., Sven.); marbre (Fr.); marmo (It.); mármol (Esp.); marmur (Pol.); mármore (Port.);

Physical and Chemical Properties

Mohs Hardness 3.0
Density 2.6-2.84 g/ml


Calcite (Egyptian limestone).TIF

Raman (MFA)

Calcite marble, 50X, laser 532 nm copy.tif


Mcalcite xrd.jpg

Resources and Citations

  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Thomas C. Jester (ed.), Twentieth-Century Building Materials, McGraw-Hill Companies, Washington DC, 1995
  • Janet Burnett Grossman, Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone, J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 2003
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=2.6-2.84 (160-177 pounds per cubic foot)