Calacatta – A New Name For The Old Colorado Yule Marble

Along with the Countless Millions poured into Colorado’s State Rock Quarry – by Experienced and Well Financed Italian Investment – Comes a New Term for our Beloved Colorado Yule Marble

And of course, it positively rrrrollls of the tongue. Give it a try. “Calacatta”, Very Italian, very Carraran, or should I say, Carrrarrran ?

Forte dei Marmi Pier Lunchtime Crowd

Say it again. Say it a few times: Calacatta ! Fun word, isn’t it ?

In fact, this is one reason that I bring it up, because, as quarry owners and huge investors they have the right to call the stone that they themselves quarry… anything they wish. But if I did need to press the point further I need only refer to my own notes as taken from my abridged account of Elaine S. McGee’ excellent and extensive survey.

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An investigation of differences in the durability of the Colorado Yule marble, a widely used building stone.

By Elaine S. McGee.


Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial

Abridged and Presented for your Interest and Enjoyment by Martin Cooney


U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey

Colorado Yule Marble — Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial. Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service Colorado Yule Marble — Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial By Elaine S. McGee. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR: BRUCE BABBITT, Secretary U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: CHARLES G. GROAT, Director UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1999. Published in the Eastern Region, Reston, Va. For sale by U.S. Geological Survey Information Services Box 25286, Federal Center Denver, CO 80225 Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data. Manuscript approved for publication August 13, 1998.

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This was the subject of my 8 part series: Building Stone of The Lincoln Memorial by Elaine S. McGee. I read the original document so that you need not. For long, dry and dusty it was at some points, but also fascinating reading at times. Click the ‘Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial’ tab in the banner and have a look for yourself.  I’ve added a great many large and intriguing photos to run alongside the narrative – so you can thank me later; I hope you enjoy.

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PART 1) Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial

by Elaine S. McGee


“One of the purest marbles ever quarried”

Click Here to Learn All About The Yule

And so, a little way down the scroll of the 8 part series, we read this:

Pt.2) Quality, Grade, Mineralogic and Physical Characteristics of the Marble: Building Stone of the Lincoln Memorial, by Elaine S. McGee (Click Here to Link).

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Names change with time

The most celebrated samples of the Colorado Yule marble are pure white, with no apparent variation in mineral content or in grain size.  However, the Colorado Golden Vein grade of the Yule marble, which contains inclusions that appear as fine lines of golden veining, is also well known.

The Yule marble is classified into grades by the quarry to reflect stone quality and the amount of inclusions in the stone.  Grade names change with time; in 1992, four grades of Yule marble were marketed for use in buildings.  From highest grade to lowest, these are Snowmass Statuary Select (SSS), Snowmass Statuary (SS), Colorado Golden Vein Select (GV select), and Colorado Golden Vein (GV).

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So there you have it; current quarry owners can and often do change and rearrange the various names for the various seams from which the marble is collected. Names come and go, but the quarry, named after miner George Yule back in 1883, has remained unchanged ever since. Still, much confusion remains in the minds of most people when I mention anything to do with the historic little marble quarry, other than ‘what, “our” marble’ (meaning Colorado), ‘that stuff that fell of the train along the Crystal River. (Yes, everyone seems to know about that, but I’ll get to it later).

By the way, so unfamiliar with the history and prestige of our local Yule are most people, that even those living right here in Colorado have no idea that it is our official state rock. Which, I must say, is a really interesting and uplifting tale – if you are in the mood for one. Click Here to discover the story behind that most significant achievement.

Yep, what those plucky girl scouts achieved was nothing short of amazing – go on, click on that link above, I’ll meet you back here when you’re done.

But I digress.

  • Panorama
  • Panorama

Back to the topic at hand – that of the continuous name changing, and resulting confusion regarding all things Colorado Yule Marble, at least as far as the general public at large are concerned. Many have been the baffled expressions that are returned whenever I mention the subject of Colorado marble to any random member of the public – as I do when I take my work on the road. However, it is not so much a problem as a hitch along the way, in the scheme of things. For eventually we will all know our precious Colorado State Rock by one name or another. For me, having reached this point, after a full decade of knowing it only as “our local Yule” all of this new terminology comes as something of a… challenge.

Not that I’m complaining, just saying.

Now let me show you how I myself entered the marble universe and, almost without knowing it at the time, found myself bitten by the infamous marble bug like oh so many along the way. Seemingly, we never learn, and down the ages those enticed close enough to marble’s miraculous and mysterious way can ofttimes find themselves but moths to the flame. Introducing: The Maiden Slab.

Prior to the splitting of The Maiden Slab, my two previous encounters with this strange local stone resulted in a sea turtle and marine themed fireplace surround. But as another winter approached, after two years knowing not what to do with this giant slab of stone – I split it into the bite-sized pieces that I was more used to in my Banker Masonry days.

And so, for me, this giant slab of strange whitish stone, awash with streaks and swirls the like of which baffled me as a carver, was just another – albeit massive – block of mysterious stone. Little did I know, little, did I know.

A marble slab breakwater lines the Crystal Riverbank

Now, I have no way of proving this matter one way or the other, but the similarities between The Maiden slab and the one pictured above are uncanny. So similar are the proportions, and almost identical the markings, that they would actually appear to be one and the same thing. Why were they slid there? Simple. With the constant rushing of the river, especially during times of run-off, a huge amount of erosion was likely to take place each passing year, until the very track of the railroad transporting the marble to market found itself in a great deal of jeopardy. The answer? Slide these great beasts down the steep bank until the river found itself duly diverted and the railroad safe from catastrophe.

Throughout the golden age of Colorado Yule marble, every scrap of stone had to be hauled along this one solitary track. Without it the quarry would be cut off from the world completely. Consequently I would like to take this opportunity to dispel one local myth, explained to me most frequently by those with scant knowledge on the subject – that this mightily organized, experienced and professional railroad (here seen leaving for the last time), would have been so careless as to let huge slabs of marble simply fall off the train, and on the inside of the curve at that! No. They were obviously skillfully placed right where they were meant to be and saving the tracks from being undercut by the Crystal river. Please pass this on.

It is true that I have heard the story outlined above so, so many times that I am sure people simply recite it without even thinking it through. But, however it survived up until my splitting and carving it into 41 separate sculptures, it was clear that The Maiden slab had been through a considerable amount of mistreatment before I could open her up and assess the situation.

And the ‘situation’ inside the slab, once split and opened for inspection was one of great hope and surprise, for what I found was that, although the outside shell of the slab was well worn and scarred, just an inch or two down the marble was just as perfect as can be. But more than that. The marble itself was simply amazing -not just brilliantly white and encrusted with twinkling and shining diamonds, but shot through with seams possessing all sorts of interesting colors, hues and textures. I couldn’t wait to get started, and when I did, this is what I saw. And as this was the very beginning of something – as yet I didn’t know quite what – I elected to name it: Genesis.

Imagine my surprise. Certainly, I had never encountered a carving stone such as this. And what where all of those big chunks of rock seemingly floating along a liquid-looking vein of toothpaste? Turns out, the big chunks of grayish stuff is, if you can believe this… cooled magma. Not lava, as from a volcano whereby it is already cooling down and full of air – pumice in other words. No, no, no. This is an altogether different animal indeed. For what you are looking at is actual MAGMA, from deep within the Earth’s core. Only much later would I learn that it was this very intrusion that would be responsible for Colorado Yule marble’s claim to fame as one of the very few Contact Metamorphosed marbles in the world – hence the exquisite carving qualities that I now take routinely for granted. Back then, however, it was all such a mystery, and teasing out her secrets came with more than a little frustration along the way. But eventually I began to understand that, unlike my familiar limestones, marble, under any and all circumstances, is the boss. In my case her name was Mable, Spirit of the Stone.

For me, Mabel (above) has everything that embodies the essence of my Collection Series Marble Sculpture. She’s as tough as nails, free as a bird, and sleek as a model. Both the challenge she presented in her carving, and the features presented upon her completion, served to outline and identify both the astonishing quality and durability of the stone, and the seemingly endless possibilities that these rare qualities would present. In other words, my career as a sculptor – and one with an original portfolio – had begun.

The name ‘Curvilinear’, as a term to describe my new style of carving, would arrive at a later date, but from this point on I knew that by splitting and carving this strange Yule marble, I could steer a whole new approach within the world of marble sculpture. Without the incredible properties of this gorgeous stone I could never even conceive the creation of large scale stone sculpture that I, and anyone matching my strength (which is not exceptional in itself) can easily pick up and move around. “Light, portable and carved for full immersion in the real world” is my slogan, and I’m sticking with it, for when all is said and done, it really is.

Various Types of Colorado Yule, The Way I See It

If were to assemble my own list of categories regarding the marble I would arrange them thus, as listed below, as by now I have completed not only The 67 Collections Series Marble Sculptures, but the many bits and bobs that I carve as small marble trinkets and the like. But the way I see it, we have to start with what is surely the whitest, brightest and most translucent marble in the world. “Statuario” they call it, and statuesque aptly describes the sculpture it produces. I just call it ‘the white band”, as it formed a full one third to a half of The Maiden Collection Slab.

The Pure White Band

  • 'Salt of the Earth' Sculpted Marble Mask by MARTIN COONEY
  • 'Salt of the Earth' Sculpted Marble Mask by MARTIN COONEY
  • Mystique Masque, 1314 Winter Collection, Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture by Martin Cooney
  • Mystique Masque, 1314 Winter Collection, Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture by Martin Cooney
  • Mystique Masque, 1314 Winter Collection, Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture by Martin Cooney
  • 'Beached Boat' Hand Carved Colorado Yule Marble Bowl by Martin Cooney
  • 'Beached Boat' Hand Carved Colorado Yule Marble Bowl by Martin Cooney
  • 'Beached Boat' Hand Carved Colorado Yule Marble Bowl by Martin Cooney

As you can see, the white band within the Yule marble slab’s seams is very, very white indeed. In parts it is completely 100 percent brilliant, sparkling white, while in other places it carries within its seam a few mere wisps of of color – traces you could call them, as they tend to blend in and virtually disappear within a very short distance. But perhaps best of all; this glorious example of perfect marble is also quite sublime to carve – a sheer delight, as it were, allowing for some of my thinnest and most daring sculptures to date.

The Opaque Swirly Band

As the name suggests, the Opaque Swirly Band displays distinct ‘rivers’ of complementary hues and colors, while at the same time, though noticeable from a distance, they tend not to capture much in the way of attention, and therefore tend not to steal the show, but actually serve to complement the slightly opaque nature of the white band at this point. In fact, in comparison to the pure white band illustrated above, the ‘white’ marble here is not of quite of the same quality in that it will not carve as sharp and as clean as the white band. All-in-all though, this is a lovely stone to carve, a little softer than the pure white stuff but undoubtedly superior by way of translucence, as you will see.

As mentioned, the opaque swirly band, while not ‘soft’ by any means lacks the robust predictably of the pure white band, is indeed able to accomplish quite demanding requests placed on it but it also tends to be easier to carve than the pure white stuff – which is nice at times. But as also mentioned, along with the relative ease of carving come all of those lovely warm colors and hues, which, once exposed to any source of bright light (or even candlelight of an evening) will set the whole carving aglow as the light travels through the marble itself to illuminate the other side. Pretty cool effect when you see it for yourself.

The Brutal Belt

And now we come to the truly fascinating – even thrilling – band that I have come to respect as the brutal belt, and soon you will see why. Remember Genesis shown above? Yes, well, this is where I plucked him from. Or almost. For by sheer chance, with my first sorte into The Maiden Slab I managed to cut out a slice located at the exact point that the pure white band made actual contact with the brutal belt. For there it is; the actual point of contact in the Contact Metamorphism. How’s that for an auspicious start to my Collection Series Marble Sculpture? Yes, you can clearly see the magma, in the form of chert, floating around in still liquefied marble/magma soup.

So, let’s take a look at the aptly named brutal belt, and what became of it as I worked my way through The Maiden Slab, for stone such as this I have not encountered since, as it came from the very roof of the quarry and such material is often simply junked these days, as was the case with this slab – until I came along.

  • 'The Demure One', Colorado Yule Marble, The Maiden Collection by Martin Cooney at
  • 'The Demure One', Colorado Yule Marble, The Maiden Collection by Martin Cooney at
  • 'Swan Wave', 'Pilgrim', 'Maypole', Snowscape. Feb 2016
  • Coliseum, Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture by Martin Cooney

And that just about concludes my post regarding the stone I have come to love and adore as Colorado Yule, is now, let’s all practice our new word for the day.

Here’s the word again.


Just, please don’t expect me to use the term regarding my Collection Series Marble Sculpture, as far as I was concerned, I had never heard or read the word anywhere in regard to Yule up until very recently. Perhaps the term will arise here on sometime soon in the near future when I get my hands of some of the new marble waste, and we’ll see what that produces, but so far, everything you see carved by these hands on this website is 100 percent pure reclaimed and once formally rejected marble from a quarrying operation bankrupted (like so many) a hundred years ago.

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Calacatta – A New Name For The Old Yule Marble

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thanks for visiting

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