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Colorado Marble: Unveiling the Legacy of Yule Marble

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The Significance of Colorado Marble

Colorado Marble may not be the first place on your list when you think about the production of natural marble stone, but it turns out that the state produces some of the most beautiful marble in the entire world.  In fact, for those interested in marble, Colorado offers a more than rich history of the stone and today still plays an important role in the overall production of marble in the United States.

The Many Faces of Marble

The competition is certainly steep when it comes to desirable types of marble around the world, and certain regions have become known for their own distinct types of marble.  The town of Carrara, Italy is widely known for its quarries which produce incredibly pure samples of beautiful, white marble, and Carrara marble is easily recognized as the stone used in the construction of the Pantheon and the famous carving of Michelangelo’s David. 

Other world locations that are celebrated for the beauty and quality of their marble include Spain, China, Mexico, and Ireland.  However, when it comes to marble in the United States, there are only a handful of quarries that produce their own distinct style of marble, and some of them are known to be just as desirable as the finest marble found in any corner of the world.

In the U.S., five states produce the most notable quantities of marble: Colorado, Tennessee, Vermont, Georgia, and Alabama.  Actually, these states in combination with just a few others in small quantities produce a fairly modest amount of marble annually when compared with other countries that are better known for producing marble. 

However, the quantity is less important than the quality and reputation of the marble produced here, especially that of the marble stone quarried from Colorado.

Yule Marble

Colorado is known for a type of marble known as Yule marble, named after the Yule Creek Valley location in which it is found.   This area, nestled within Colorado’s West Elk Mountains, is located just outside of Marble, Colorado, and it has been producing marble for the rest of the world since the discovery of its rich marble almost 150 years ago.

The area that bears a rich deposit of Yule marble presents a difficult scenario to those who wish to retrieve it, as the marble must be quarried from the mountain that contains it, situated over 9,000 ft. above sea level.  This feat is a far cry from the usual method of quarrying marble which usually includes very little tunneling into the earth and traditionally occurs at far lower elevation levels.

Yule Marble: Prestige Amidst Challenge

Despite the difficult environment, the marble created by local conditions is incredibly pure and falls just short of 100% pure calcite.  This in turn creates a marble stone that is incredibly smooth, uniform, and luminous.  In fact, Yule marble is so admired, it was chosen as the perfect stone to use as cladding on the Lincoln Memorial as well as for use in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a piece of marble that still holds the record for the largest individual sample ever produced.

The rough environment and difficulty of quarrying marble at such an altitude has caused Yule marble to come with a relatively expensive price when compared with other types of marble.  Unfortunately, new technology has done little to decrease the danger of quarrying marble in deep snow and sharp slopes, and the cost remains high as a result.

Regardless of its price, the popularity of this natural stone has remained so steady that it was the inspiration for a petition in 2004 to officially declare Colorado’s state rock the Yule marble.

Colorado Marble History

Early Discovery and Initial Growth

Relying on marble to fully support their economy has shown the people of Marble, Colorado periods of great prosperity as well as loss, but the history of how Yule marble came to be as significant as it is actually reveals a stone that has made its mark on the entire country in some ways.

As early as the 1870s, the future towns of Clarence and Marble, Colorado were becoming populated with prospectors on the hunt for silver and gold in the area. Ultimately, the search for precious metal was not overly fruitful for the people in those areas, but this changed dramatically when Yule marble was discovered in 1882.

World’s Fair and Capital Building

Interest in the marble was evident right away, after an incredible piece of Yule marble was sent to the World’s Fair in 1893 and was subsequently chosen as the appropriate material to adorn the inside of Colorado’s capital building in Denver.

In just over a decade, Marble, Colorado had grown to a population of 150, and three marble quarries were already being supported by the town. The area’s most successful marble quarry to date, The Colorado Yule Marble Company, was formed in 1906, and the town grew by leaps and bounds from the date it was formed, reaching a population of 1500 in just a few short years.

Economic Fluctuations and Modern Day

The next century was full of ups and downs for Marble, Colorado, as the demand for marble fluctuated throughout the world along with the demand for similar commercial products. Today, Marble has once again dropped to a population of about 130 people, and the town supports only one active marble quarry owned by the Colorado Yule Marble Company.

National Significance

Despite the fluctuating demands for marble, the requests for Yule marble to embellish the Lincoln Memorial in 1922 and to act as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926 are evidence of the country’s appreciation for the beauty and value of the marble that is still quarried from Colorado and shipped internationally today.

More Places to Find Yule Marble

The popularity of Yule marble is evident in structures built across the United States.  Despite its cost over other types of marble, it has been used in the construction of important buildings in more than half the states, including the capitol buildings of Colorado, Utah, and Montana.

The people in the town of Marble, Colorado still celebrate the importance of Yule marble with an annual symposium observing the importance of the stone and providing instruction for those who wish to learn how it is sculpted.  The event also provides citizens and tourists the opportunity to explore the material with the artisans that work with Yule marble today.

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