16 March 2010

Case closed! Mysterious marble a mystery no more!

Last week I wrote about designer Marc Newson's London apartment and I was struck particularly by the marble he used in his bath. Here's the bath in question.

Identifying that marble has become my life's work for the last few days and I'm beyond pleased to announce that I found it. According the stone wholesale site Alibaba, it is Calacatta Zebrino. It's sold by a quarry in Italy and I'd love to have a geologist explain to me how a marble could form with such pronounced strips intact.

Marble is a metamorphic rock. It starts out in life as limestone. Limestone forms from layers of sediment that accumulate at the bottom of a sea. At that point it's a sedimentary rock and it's expected to have layers. In order for it to turn to marble, the limestone has to be shoved down under the surface of the earth and be subjected to extreme heat and pressure for a few million years. Then, miracle of miracles, it has to work its way back to the surface. When it emerges, it's marble. Now, how could a process like that happen without messing up the layers? Anybody care to share an explanation?

However it happened, at least I know what it is. Oh happy day!


  1. Like you I have no idea, but I'm glad it does.

  2. I'm glad too but I'd love to know the untold story. The story these rocks tell is one of the reasons I like using them in homes so much.

  3. Paul,

    Alibaba is not really a stone wholesale site. It's a trading site. Apparently, one of the traders deals in stone. While there's some good stories about using Alibaba, there's a hundred more about being scammed there. I will say that every time a link to them shows up on a search of mine, the details look awfully shady.

  4. I think the stripes are caused by global warming and carbon emissions.

    I know Paul, you want to slap me, but I don't think its far from the truth. Limestone can be formed in layers over time at the bottoms of sea floors or lake beds from dying shelled animals and sediments. These layers can have distinct regular banding patterns from things like high water periods from winter melt or other seasonal changes causing abundance or lack of food. Over time and under pressure, these layers form limestone.

    This layered limestone could then be forced down under pressure (subduction fault maybe) or heated by vulcanism to form layered marble. Just a guess - I am not geologist.

  5. David: Oh I know all that. Where the mystery is for me is that the layers were preserved. How can there be even pressure and heat over millions of years. Preserving the layers at the point of subduction wouldn't be too tough, that happens all the time. What kills me is tha tthe pressure had to remain constant as it was forced back up from the very bowels of the earth.

    Striped sedimentary stone is easy, stone yards are full of it. But layered metamorphics? Now that's an achievement.

    Anon: Good catch! I saw a bunch of slabs up for auction and assumed they were a wholesaler.

  6. The answer is obvious -- MAGIC!! ;-)

    It really is a fascinating marble. The stripes make it look like a forest of birch trees on the wall behind the tub.


  7. It was created by magic elves to make designers like us crazy with desire.

  8. That smacks of creationism Raina, I'm shocked. How long have you been back in the US? It's rubbing off. :)

    Kelly: Now that I know what it is, I need to start harassing my stone yards to bring in a slab or two. I want to see this stuff in person.

  9. God that stuff is beautiful. (Uh-oh, I'm at risk of aligning myself with the creationists, too...) As for its formation, well, sometimes huge areas of the earth's crust are slowly raised thousands of feet over millennia, then suddenly cleaved open when part of that upwelling collapses. That's basically how the Rio Grande Valley (at least the part around Albuquerque) formed; the mountains (Sandias) on ABQ's east side show many areas of straight-line, undistorted sedimentation. Or... maybe it was elves.

  10. As much as I'd love to go along with the elves idea, there has to be more going on. Is the Rio Grande Valley formed with sedimentary rock or metamorphic? It's the transition from sedimentary to metamorphic that holds all the wonder for me. I need to track down a geologist. Holding the layers while it's still sedimentary rock is relatively easy. Holding onto those striations once it becomes metamorphic rock is the real achievement. However it formed, it is absolutely amazing stuff.

  11. It's gorgeous! Wow, what a find. Thanks for being Sherlock Holmes!
    Paula Grace ~

  12. Paul I vote for the magic Elves theory.... but if you really wish a bonafide explanation you might prefer to do a websearch for
    Science Whatzit and inquire.

    It is really quite beautiful! -Brenda-

  13. Outstanding referral Brenda and I LOVE that museum. My parents took us there when I was a kid and I'd never been anywhere like it.

  14. paul, is this the same as equator marble?

  15. I've never heard of Equator Marble before but that's not surprising. There is no central glossary of accepted and uniform names for stones. Everyone calls them something different and that gets more true the rarer the stone. So the answer is, I don't know.


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