THE CARRARA MARBLE DISTRICT
The Stone District of Carrara has always been the leading area in the world stone industry. Here are located the world’s most famous and important deposits of white marble, whose quarrying and fabrication have made Carrara and the Apuan Alps known worldwide. The Apuan marbles come from the longest worked stone deposits of all those currently producing stone. They have a wide range of varieties, more than 40 of which are currently quarried, including statuario white, veined white, bardiglio, breccia, cipollino and coloured. Current stone production in the Carrara area amounts to 1.5 million tons/year and there are more than 150 quarrying companies with roughly 1000 employees.
Owing to the richness of the marble deposits, the activities linked to stone quarrying and fabrication developed and specialized through the centuries reaching unparalleled standards of know-how. Carrara’s ancient stone-working has turned into a modern industrial sector that combines the stone worker's skills and high technology. Indeed, the fabrication of marble favoured the development of additional industrial activities. In particular that of the manufacturing of stone-cutting machines, which, along with that of abrasives and equipment, has become a most important high-tech field for the stone industry. There are almost 140 companies manufacturing machines, tools, and abrasives with an overall employment around 750 workers.
Carrara’s leadership in this sector is based, besides the above-mentioned factors, on a close cooperation between stone industries and high-tech manufacturers. This cooperation has resulted in the manufacturing of more advanced machines that are able to solve the various problems encountered in stone fabrication. Thus, the performance of the machines can be improved, because experimentation is conducted in close collaboration with the fabrication plants, and the technical assistance is constantly guaranteed.
Carrara is undoubtedly one of the best known world areas for cutting stone blocks into cut-to-size products largely used in building, but also entering the markets of tombstone arts, furnishing and sculpture. More than 850 processing companies are operating, employing about 4000 very skilled workers. In total, in the Carrara stone district there are 1000 companies and around 5000 employees directly involved in the industry. Associated 'satellite' industries include around another 800 companies with 3000 more workers.
The commercial role
The market demand for high quality stone is subject to many changes and in order to meet this demand, the supply side needs to offer as wide a range of materials as possible. The Carrara area has succeeded in fully developing its commercial role, becoming the world’s stone trading centre. Besides local production, which as was stated above is already considerable, also stone coming from the rest of Italy is traded and exported worldwide.
Carrara can boast the widest range of materials available, including granite imported from Brazil, Spain, India, South Africa and Scandinavia, marble from Greece, Turkey, Portugal, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and other stone and onyx marbles coming from the remotest corners of the Earth.
The growth in stone imports has consolidated thanks to the decisive role played by the harbour of Marina di Carrara, which has specialized in the unloading and storage of raw stone materials subsequently carried to the fabrication plants: Once cut to size, stone is shipped to the most important markets (the USA, Europe, the
Arabian Countries, Japan, China, Singapore etc.) where is used to clad high-rise buildings, to provide flooring for banks, and to furnish shops and shopping centres.
Updates on Carrara System
In short, Carrara’s leadership in the stone industry is based upon several factors:
- one of the highest natural stones (NS) quarry output in the world and the availability of sizeable white marble deposits which provide a widely used material with a constant market demand
- one of the largest and most important NS processing facilities of the world's stone industry, in terms of the use of high technology and professionalism of the workers.
- its role as a stone trading centre at international level, due to the concentration of raw material trading and leading large processing and trading companies, and the wide knowledge of the commercial channels connected to the outlet market.
Further changes in the international market, which has become increasingly demanding in terms of product quality, and interested in turn-key projects including guaranteed installation, have resulted in the creation of relevant services such as:
- technological and product innovation transfer from research centres to the stone companies
- a specialized laboratory for testing stone materials in order to provide technical information to architects
- intense promotion activity, mainly based on the organization of the CARRARMARMOTEC International Fair for Natural Stone and Technology but also through seminars for architects, training for professionals dealing with stone, and specialized publications concerning all aspects of the stone industry.
- participation in the European Committee for stone standards
- assistance to stone companies which want to be certified according to the different standards (ISO, CEN, etc.)
Carrara’s stone firms can now already offer their clients an integrated product whose supply ends only after installation and thorough testing, thus freeing the buyer from further responsibilities.
The Northern Apennines are a fold and thrust chain formed during the Tertiary due to the collision of the palaeo-Europe (Corsica-Sardinia block) and the palaeo-African (Adria) continental margins (Alpine-Apenninic orogenesis).
In the inner northern Apennines, the Alpi Apuane are a known region because of large outcrops of Ornamental/Dimension Stones, among which the whitish and variously decorated marbles are the most famous and which were exploited since the first century B.C. The Alpi Apuane are an uplifted and severely eroded region (the "Apuane core complex" ), in which the regional Apennine structure is best exposed.
The deepest part consists of the so-called Apuane Metamorphic Complex (AMC) that comprises the metamorphic sequences of the Massa Unit and underlying Apuane Unit (ex Autochthonous Auctorum). Upwards the AMC is followed by unmetamorphosed cover units, which are the Tuscan Nappe, the Canetolo Unit , and some ophiolite-bearing Liguride Units.
The CARRARA DISTRICT METAMORPHIC MARBLES are included in the early Jurassic (Lias) Formations (see MAA in the stratigraphic column below).
Marble quarrying activities throughout the entire Apuane region are carried out in five different areas: Carrara, Massa, Lunigiana (Fivizzano), Garfagnana (Vagli, Minucciano, Villa Collemandina) and Versilia (Stazzema, Seravezza). All these areas form the Carrara Marble District.
Stratigraphic column in Western Apuan Alps and related Corss Section (Carrara District)
From M.Mecchere et al. “The Carrara Marbles (Alpi Apuane, Italy): a geological and economical updated review”, Dec. 2007
GEO-STRUCTURAL MAP OF CARRARA MARBLE DISTRICT
MAIN COMMERCIAL TYPES OF CARRARA MARBLE
1. Ordinario/Bianco Carrara
5. Statuario Venato
7. Calacata and Calacata Oro (clast supported megabreccia)
8. Bardiglio (grey)
9. Paonazzo (purple-violet)
10. Zebrino (stripped black/grey/green and white/yellowish)
Note: for each type several sub-types exist
According to a commercial product classification, it is possible to determine six classes of marbles on the basis of their commercial value and lithological characteristics:
CLASS 1: “Statuario”, “Bianco P”, “Clalacata”, “Cremo” and “Arabescato”
CLASS 2: “Bianco C”, “Bianco Venato-Venatino”, Bardiglio (grey color)
CLASS 3: “Bianco C/D”, “Bianco Venato C/D”
CLASS 4: “Bianco D”, “Bianco Venato D”, “Nuvolato”
CLASS 5: the “darkest Bianco” and “Bianco Venato”
CLASS 6: colored marbles (“Rosso Collemandina”, “Rosso Rubino”, “Breccia Serravezza”
SOME EXAMPLES OF CARRARA MABLES
BIANCO Carrara "C/D"
White Carrara "C"
STATUARIO VENATO "Bettogli"
BIANCO Carrara "D"
CARRARA MARBLE EXPERIENCE
An old traditional heritage to be preserved, for a future modern sectoral sustainable development