Artificial marble, also known as “fake” marble, is abundant in the market, especially in furniture and fixtures.
Sometimes, it becomes hard for the public to determine which marble product is made of natural stone because the engineered ones appear almost real unless you know what to look for.
Some of the main distinctions between natural and artificial marble are the following:
- range of colors and patterns
- heat resistance
- the necessary level of maintenance
This article contains a complete explanation of the differences which can help you decide which stone you will use for your needs.
Determining Which is Natural and Artificial Marble
Know the Origin and Composition
In this part, we will discuss how the two variations of marble are made, together with what makes them up.
A member of the metamorphic rock family, marble comes from limestone contingent on the extreme heat and pressure of metamorphism (the process of rock transformation).
Real marble’s main mineral is calcite, which is largely calcium carbonate (CaCO3). But since it’s a result of a natural geological process, it also contains other minerals such as:
- clay minerals
- iron oxides
Also known as artificial, engineered, synthetic, faux, or fake marble—factories create it by combining a variety of materials. The first is marble debris which is natural marble in the form of small stones, powder, or any surplus material of the same stone.
Some of the other materials include:
- stone powder
- plastic cement
- synthetic resin
- acrylic glue
The manufacturer will have to stir the mixture and cool it down before they can form the specific marble product.
Check the Color and Pattern
This will be more about the difference in physical characteristics such as the range of colors, uniformity of patterns, and gloss.
Marble from the earth is rich in color because of the uniqueness of the effect of metamorphism and the number of impurities or minerals that mix with the limestone.
If there are only a few impurities, the marble’s color will be lighter, such as white or grey. On the other hand, if the limestone mixes with minerals like iron oxides, the colors will be distinct such as red.
The dehydrated iron oxide will leave the stone pink, and green marble exists because of iron and magnesium.
The veining patterns of this stone are also unique; no two slabs of marble will have the same veins. Moreover, the latter can have different colors and thicknesses.
- Calacatta marble, for example, has a white background but its veins are a mixture of thick dark grey, brown, beige, and gold.
- Crema Marfil is a creamy beige with white, yellow, cinnamon, and goldish beige veins.
Lastly, real marble is naturally glossy and reflects light. This trait is even more evident when we polish the marble as its finishing.
Synthetic marble is more flexible when it comes to its appearance. Since its formulation is engineered, we can customize the colors that are not present in natural marble. That is why we have dye as part of this cultured stone’s composition.
So if you think that the marble countertop’s color doesn’t look natural, then it most likely isn’t.
Other than that, owners can also dye artificial marble if the old color gets boring, or if they are renovating the interior and the engineered countertop needs to match.
Since this cultured variation of the stone is customizable, manufacturers also have more control over the veins. Contrary to natural marble where the veining pattern is unique and always different, the veins of artificial ones can be uniform.
When it comes to glossiness, cultured marble is coated with a gel that sometimes makes it shinier than natural. However, it doesn’t have the luminosity of real marble.
Measure the Weight
The weight of a material affects the shipping costs—depending on the type of product, the heavier a stone is, the more expensive it’s to ship.
Without a doubt, real marble is heavy as it weighs 6.67 pounds per square meter. The standard size of a countertop is 30 square meters, so if we use natural marble, that will weigh around 200 pounds.
Depending on the consumer, the weight may or may not be a negative characteristic. It does, however, cause challenges in moving around medium-sized marble furniture.
Natural marble’s heaviness also causes a higher cost in transportation, especially in exports. When using stone as a building material like wall cladding, the installation process takes a longer period and there is more necessity for manpower.
Although, the results of any product or building that uses marble are of a high standard in both durability and beauty. If we want to utilize real marble but we are worried about its weight’s implications, we have lightweight stone panels.
Artificial marble is lighter than its natural counterpart. While the weight will vary per product, a vanity top with double sinks weighs 134 pounds.
This is one of the reasons why homeowners go for cultured marble fixtures, as the transportation cost will be less even with the safety cargo equipment included.
So if a marble table is surprisingly lighter than it looks, there’s a huge chance that it’s faux.
Look Into the Heat and Water Resistance
Kitchen furniture and fixtures must embody heat-resistant properties as they will be facing hot pans and plates. Being stable under temperature changes should also be a trait that the material must have.
Extreme heat during metamorphism is part of what makes marble as it is. Therefore, we can confidently describe natural marble as a heat-resistant material, being able to withstand up to 200 degrees Celsius or 329 degrees Fahrenheit.
Real marble is an excellent countertop and table material as we can use our kitchen tools without worries. However, we strongly recommend taking precautions for the stone’s quality; using trivets and saucers is an example.
In terms of water resistance, it can withstand liquid and cold. However, we do not recommend leaving water to dry on the marble because it might cause etch marks. Real marble is porous, so sealing is advisable as well.
The composition of cultured marble contains plastic and glue, hence it doesn’t have the heat resistance that real marble has. The gel coating can also melt when exposed to high temperatures.
We know this will make everyone wonder why it’s a popular material for countertops; the answer is, it always depends on the needs, preferences, and budget.
On the other hand, artificial marble is highly resistant to water penetration. Since it’s engineered, it’s not porous. Therefore, moisture won’t be a problem, which is the downside of natural marble.
Know the Required Maintenance
Both real and faux marble require preservation, but the question is how much effort do we need to exert? The answer is in this section.
This stone is naturally porous; although it has water resistance, sealing natural marble will help maintain its appearance and quality. We also recommend doing the following:
- regular cleaning (every day or every other day), which is removing or wiping out the dust from a marble surface using a microfiber material or a soft broom on floors
- deep cleaning (once a month), which is the thorough cleaning of the marble surface using warm water, microfiber material, chamois cloth for water absorption, and a marble cleaner or ph 7 liquid soap
We emphasize the need for neutral cleaners for natural marble, which is why we advised a ph 7 level of liquid soap or any cleaning product. This stone should also not be exposed to the following:
- harsh cleaning agents
- oil and grease (wipe out immediately)
Exposure to these might lead to staining or etching, which might require professional help to remove.
Real marble has resistance to scratches, especially when sealed. When they accumulate, there are also solutions for eliminating them.
Artificial marble doesn’t need sealing, unlike natural one. Because of its gel coating, it has strong resistance to stains but it can still be scratched.
In terms of maintenance, this engineered stone also requires mild products, so we advise using neutral cleaners. However, cultured marble might not need as much cleaning as real one.
The cost of purchasing natural marble from the engineered stone will differ depending on the project or product type.
The price of real marble will depend on the market demands and quarrying expenses. The quality of the stone plays a role too since there is luxury and cheap marble.
But expect this stone to be quite expensive as it is quality, durability, and elegance all in one.
Man-made marble is less expensive as there is more control over the essential ingredients and materials.
While it will depend on the type of product and how complicated the work will be, engineered stone is more affordable for those who are on a budget.
Natural and artificial marble look almost similar in that it becomes difficult to determine between the two. Both of them are used in varying projects, but they do have key differences which are:
- details in appearance
- level of resistance
- required maintenance
Choosing between real and engineered marble will depend on our needs, preferences, and budget. The good news is, they are both capable of fulfilling their purpose whether as furniture or a fixture.