How can we export marble

8 things we always wanted to know about Italian marble

Why is marble sometimes white and sometimes red? How did the ancient Romans mine marble? Fascinating Facts About a Luxurious Stone

Laura Molteni 8. September 2016
Giornalista, scrivo di design e cultura del progetto. Nell'arredo amo lo stile "massimalista" alla Renzo Mongiardino
Marble is a beautiful natural stone that was created from limestone through geological metamorphosis. Every marble rock is unique: what it looks like depends on where it was found - and on the conditions under which the stone was formed. This magnificent rock has slumbered underground for millions of years, and people have been bringing it to the surface in order to process it for centuries. The luxurious stone has always been very popular among artists, architects and designers. Its colors and grains, its very special sheen - and last but not least its versatility - make it so fascinating.
A stack of marble slabs.

Although marble is quarried in many countries, Italy immediately springs to mind. The most popular variety is white Carrara marble, which comes from the Apuan Alps in northern Italy. Calacatta and Bardiglio marble also come from this region, in which the most important sites in Italy are concentrated. The largest quantities and the most sought-after varieties are found here. But there are also many other Italian regions that are known for their marble. The reddish Veronese marble comes from Veneto, Portoro from Liguria, Pietra di Trani from Apulia and Custonaci from Sicily, to name just a few types.

From the difficult transport of stone slabs in ancient Rome to the impressive processing techniques that exist today, we've learned 8 things about marble that you may always have wanted to know.
1. What fascinates architects and designers about marble?
“Marble has very special qualities: It is durable and it is well suited as a medium for expressing new creative ideas that can be reflected in shape, color or surface texture,” explains Davide Turrini. He is the art director of the Italian natural stone company Pibamarmi, where he studies the properties of the material. He attributes the fact that Carrara marble is one of the most valuable types to its exclusive appearance. "It's deeply rooted in history, well established in the market and instantly recognized everywhere."
Rosso Verona
“Marble fascinates us because it represents our need to surround ourselves with valuable, durable materials again,” says industrial designer Raffaello Galiotto. He is representative of the opinion of many designers. “The fact that marble has such a great charisma is because you see in it the expression of nature: authentic, unique, untouched by fads and simply durable,” says Margherita Ricciardi, whose furniture company Nice & Square mainly processes marble.
2. How was marble quarried in the past - and how do you do it today?
“As we know from historical records, marble was mined in ancient Rome along the fault lines in the rock,” explains Giovanni Massa from the Center for Geotechnology at the University of Siena. “With hammers and pointed chisels made of metal, they laid a cutting line - the so-called line caesura - on the surface. Then they drove sticks and iron or wooden wedges into this gap and gradually enlarged it until it opened. "

In the 18th century, thanks to the emergence of black powder, it became possible to make explosions, which made work in the quarry much easier. However, the use of special machines in the 19th century led to a sudden increase in the amount of marble extracted - above all the wire rope or helicoid saw, which made it possible to cut several blocks of marble at the same time.
“There was a real revolution in technology almost 30 years ago when the diamond wire and diamond chainsaw were developed. With them you could not only cut the marble in straight cutting lines, but also along defined cutting angles, ”explains Massa.
But the challenges don't end in the quarry. In Roman antiquity there were two ways of moving the marble blocks from the mountain to the valley: you could simply slide them down the slopes (a dangerous method that also damaged the rock) or you could follow them using a wooden sledge attached to strong ropes transport below. This sledge, the so-called lizzatura or lizza, moved on specially created slideways. To this day, on the slopes of the Apuan Alps, such "Lizza-Wege "to see.

After World War II that became Lizzatura-System replaced by heavy-duty vehicles on tires. Railways took over the further transport. With the expansion of the rail network, the marble could also be transported over longer distances. As a result, trade in the material flourished and demand increased.
3. In which countries is Italian marble particularly popular?
Italian marble is in great demand all over the world. The total export value of natural stone (in uncut form and as a semi-finished or finished product) was 3.2 billion US dollars in 2015, as the stone processors Marmomacc Observatory and Confindustria Marmomacchine have calculated on the basis of figures from the Italian statistics agency.

The demand for semi-finished or finished stone products is highest in the USA, followed by Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and France. Demand is increasing in the Middle East (especially in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia), and has stabilized in Russia.
China and India are the largest markets for raw materials.

In total, Italy exports stone to around 140 countries. This success, says Maurizio Danese, is due to “Italian know-how in stone processing and the development of new processing technologies, but also to the constant flow of new ideas and designs.” Danese is the President of Veronafiere, the organizer of the Marmomacc international trade fair, which takes place every year takes place in Verona (Italy). Everything here revolves around the mining and processing of natural stone. The fair is the most important point of contact for the international marble industry.
For the "Apuleio" lamp white Carrara marble was hollowed out and shaped. It was designed by Michele De Lucchi and Philippe Nigro for Pibamarmi.

4. What does the purity of the colors and grains depend on?
"Marble occurs in many geographical regions and in different countries," says Luigi Carmignani, professor of applied geology at the University of Siena. “In each region of the site, the marble that is mined there has its own aesthetic in terms of colors and shapes. Sometimes the peculiarities are so pronounced that there is a very specific type of marble in a particular quarry, which even differs from other quarries in the same region. "
Bianco perlino
“The lithological and mineralogical properties, which correspond to the color, the 'purity' and the pattern of different types of marble, depend on many factors,” explains Carmignani. “Rock types are mainly differentiated from one another based on their respective color. In marble, the color comes from the minerals that are more or less scattered or concentrated in the rock - microcrystals made of hematite (with a hue between pale pink and brick red), chlorite (light to dark green), pyrite (light to dark gray) and so on.

However, if these minerals are absent - or if they only occur in small numbers - the marble takes on a color between pearly white and pure white, because calcite is the main component of the rock. "
"The texture - the unique pattern that we can admire on the surface of a polished marble slab - depends on the size, shape, location and arrangement of various enclosed materials," says Carmignani, "also on the spatial orientation of its grain and of their colors, which in turn are the result of various mineralogical compositions. "
5. Is there also light marble?
Each type of marble has its own weight, but the "heaviness" is not a defect, but a quality feature. However, it can also have a disadvantage - namely when objects are to have shapes or properties that cannot be realized with solid marble.

Margherita Ricciardi from Nice & Square says her patented “Stonewave” system fills this gap. The illustration shows a wash basin in which the product is used: It consists of an extremely light aluminum structure cut to customer specifications, the surface of which is covered with hand-cut marble elements. The material is a third lighter than solid marble; At the same time, a supporting basic construction ensures that it is solid and does not sag under load. Continuous panels of up to four meters in length can be made from Stonewave. It's also environmentally friendly: the marble used in it comes from old ones marmette (one centimeter thick terrazzo tiles).

Stonewave is recommended for use in sinks, shower stalls, bathtubs, countertops, tables and living room furniture.
Eco | Rilievo Collection
6. What surface treatments are common today for marble?
“Polishing is just one of the many ways to work on marble surfaces. Wherever it is used today, a conscious decision was made to instead just follow the usual tradition, ”says Alberto Bevilacqua, Managing Director of Lithos Design, one of the first companies to examine the potential of marble facades with a relief-like surface in 2007 .

Because today there are possibilities available for the processing of stone surfaces that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago - a consequence of the development of machines based on computer numeric control (CNC). “That is the reason why we speak of stone design today and why we can also decorate this material industrially,” explains Bevilacqua. "We can now achieve results that could not be achieved by hand, and we can manufacture various products with which hand-made and artistic objects can be complemented."
Ritmo | Rilievo Collection
“The new technology primarily makes it possible to work with the highest precision. The products are of consistent quality, free of the imperfections that are part of traditional craftsmanship. In addition, it enables completely new products to be developed that could not be manufactured using conventional techniques, ”says Bevilacqua. “The industrial processing of marble is nothing new, but the ultra-modern CNC technology opens up completely new, interesting perspectives and possibilities for new product design. The production in large numbers with low costs and less material waste is no longer a problem. "
The designer Raffaello Galiotto curated the exhibition “Marmo_2.0 Digital Design Evolution”, which was on view during the Salone del Mobile in Milan (April 12-17, 2016).

7. Can you still surprise with marble?
“For several years now, I have made it my goal to research which new shapes can be created with marble,” says industrial designer Raffaello Galiotto, who can look back on many years of creative use of this material. “When we examine historical objects made of natural stone, we not only learn a lot about the geological epoch from which they originate, but also about the manufacturing technology with which they were created. I believe that it is not only necessary, but even our duty, to work with resources that did not exist in the past. In this way we store information about the reality of our lives. I think these new technologies are a great opportunity to simplify human work and create new objects. In part of my research, for example, I am concerned with optimizing cut shapes in such a way that both positive and negative space can be used. It's a different kind of design that helps us avoid waste. "

Galiotto has curated the design and architecture pavilion of the Marmomacc trade fair since 2014. With the help of new technologies, the industrial designer not only pushes the previous limits of design, but transcends them. His experiments are impulses for the market to elicit something completely new from a material that is millions of years old.

“There are no limits to the power of invention: Marble offers us incredible opportunities to keep on researching. And the deeper you 'dig', the more you will find - in every respect ”, is how Galiotto sums up his approach.
At the Milan Furniture Fair in April, Galiotto curated the “Marmo_2.0 Digital Design Evolution” exhibition, supported by five companies: Citco, Helios Automazioni, Intermac, Lithos Design and Marmi Strada. They showed five highly experimental working studies made of marble, which were designed with parametric software. The designs were implemented using CNC machines so that recycling material could be used and waste products could be saved.

agave (in the picture) is a three-meter-high sculpture in the shape of a cylinder, which is hollow on the inside and was made from a block of marble with the dimensions 80 x 30 x 2 centimeters. To do this, the material was first divided into 10 plates. With a five-axis water jet system, various rings were then cut out of the marble block, which could then be layered on top of one another with the help of 3D modeling software.
8. Where does the marble of the Milan Cathedral actually come from?
The Milan Cathedral, the city's Gothic landmark, is made of Candoglia marble. This material has been extracted from the same quarry for more than six centuries and is still used for restoration work.
In 1387, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, then Duke of Milan, founded the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano. Various workshops dealt with the design, construction and maintenance of the cathedral under the roof of this “venerable cathedral building hut”. The Duke decided to forego the typical mud bricks of the Lombard era when building the cathedral and instead use a type of marble with a “sweetish” color (pink grain on a beige-white background). This stone comes from the Candoglia quarries in the Ossola Valley west of Lake Maggiore.
A system of ditches and canals ensured that the marble blocks could be transported to the cathedral construction site by water. The rivers Ticino (Ticino) and Toce, Lake Maggiore and the Naviglio Grande Canal in Milan were used for this purpose. Marble has not been shipped since 1920, but has been transported by road.