Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

OK, I’m going to age myself now. I remember the ads on TV in the early 80s for Memorex cassette tapes: “Is it live or is it Memorex?” Of course, with today’s digital media, recorded tapes are ancient technology. Little did I know while I was sipping my coffee one morning that I would run into a inspection where I could use those words again.

I was on my last drop of coffee when my phone rang.  And yes, it was good to the last drop (Sorry, I can’t get these old commercials out of my head!). The voice on the other end sounded real hoarse and raspy. There was something about it that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t identify where I’d heard it before. The person speaking went on and on about a home she had just bought, and that the marble columns were all ruined. I tried to get a word in edgewise, but she keep going on and on about how much this house cost, etc., etc. I tried to get some details, but all she said was, “You have to come out here and help me!” 

“OK, OK, calm down,” I said. I asked for the address and then told her what my inspection fee would be. She said fine, and since it was only 10 minutes away, I told her I could be there right away. I should really think about charging extra for emergency stone response!

I asked for a cup of joe to go, and I was off to Ms. Gravelly Voice’s house.  Arriving at the address, I pulled up to a gate to a house that was as large as a hotel. I wondered – what did this person do for a living?  

I knocked on the door and a fashionably-dressed lady answered it, smoking one of those tiny , thin cigars.  She said, “You must be the Stone Detective,” in a gravelly voice as she puffed on her cigar. (Wonder if it’s a  Tiparillio, it makes everything you do a little better? There my brain goes again, with another old commercial.)

 I looked around and saw marble everywhere. The floors were a beautiful combination of Botticino and Verde Alpi. The walls were clad with a white marble, and the room had a cold feel to it. The room was circular in shape, surrounded by a number of tall marble columns.

Can you name a condition where marble veins fade?

Can you name a condition where marble veins fade?

As I was looking around she started telling me about all the marble, the floors, the walls, and finally she got to the columns. She told me she bought the house a month ago and everything was fine with the columns.  I took a closer look, and there were streaks running down them. It looked like the marble veins had been faded out and smeared across the surface.  I gently tapped my knuckles on the columns and a big smile came across my face.  

Ms. Gravely must not have been too pleased at this, since she gave me a look like she was going to brand me with one of those cigars.  I almost laughed out loud at the thought, but I composed myself and asked her the following question: “What do you use to clean these columns?”

She said she told her maid to use a marble polish. I asked if could see the polish. 

She motioned me to follow her into the kitchen, where she reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of marble polish. 

I recognized it right away. It was carnuba-based polish. Carnubas are suspended in a solvent. In a minute, you will see why that this is important to know.  

I looked at the bottle and with a nod I said, “AHA,” and asked her to follow me back into the circular room.  

I stood next to the column and tapped on it with my knuckles and said, “What you have here is a wood column very skillfully painted to look like marble.” Again, she looked at me with an “I’m going to kill you” glare. 

I was (almost) sorry to burst her bubble, as I continued to explain to her that the marble polish is a solvent similar to paint thinner and what her maid did was to simply smear the paint on the column.  I told her the fix was easy: just call a faux artist back in to repaint the columns. 

Another case solved, and I have a new slogan: Is it real marble or is it Memorex marble? (LOL!)

 The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to be entertaining and educational. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Send your comments to him at