Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD 

Who remembers that Lynyrd Skynyrd song: Can You Smell That Smell? It’s funny how songs tend to find their way into my daily stone and tile inspections. Well, today would not be different. Of course, there are many smells that we all identify with. When I walked into my favorite greasy spoon this morning the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air. Of course, there was also the smell of frying bacon. Little did I know that the first call I received this morning would be about a rotten egg smell on a marble floor.

I sat down and Flo immediately poured me a cup of joe. She seemed to be in an odd mood this morning. She looked stressed and wasn’t her usual smiley, flirty self. I decided to leave it alone and not tease her. However, I was going to ask her what was wrong, but then my phone rang. In my morning voice I answered, “Stone Detective, here.”

The dame on the other end sounded nervous. Her voice was trembling and broken. She said she had this awful rotten egg smell in her house, and she was sure it was coming from the workers who were refinishing her marble floor. My first thought was to tell her to ask the guys if they had some bad tacos the night before, but I had a feeling I knew where the smell was coming from – and it wasn’t methane gas from the workers. At least I hoped it wasn’t. I told her not to light a match and I would be over there as soon as I finished my breakfast. (I really didn’t tell her that, but I was sure thinking about it.)

I finished my breakfast and finally got a smile out of Flo and headed over to the “gas house.” I arrived at the address and was immediately greeted by the nervous homeowner. She was your typical housewife, with her hair up in curlers and a plaid apron. It was like she was June Cleaver from the Leave it To Beaver Show. For you young kids: look it up on YouTube.  

She said the smell was awful and there wasn’t enough air freshener to mask it.  I asked her if the marble was black in color. She looked surprised and said yes, it was indeed, and asked me how I knew that. I guess I could have told her over the phone, but I knew the crew and wanted to stop by and tease them. 

The rotten egg smell associated with ground black marble is primarily due to the presence of sulfur compounds within the stoneShe led me inside and there were two gentleman grinding away on the floor. They recognized me right away and stopped what they were doing. They asked what I was doing there, and I told them that I heard they had some bad tacos last night. They smiled and said, “Yup, Black Marble.” Now, those of you who have worked on black marble know that smell, but do you know why it smells? I flagged Mrs. Cleaver over and told her and the crew the following: 

“The rotten egg smell associated with ground black marble is primarily due to the presence of sulfur compounds within the stone. These sulfur compounds can manifest as minerals like pyrite (iron sulfide) or marcasite. 

When these minerals are exposed to moisture and air, they have the potential to generate hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S). Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas with a foul smell, often likened to that of rotten eggs.” 

I looked over at her and the crew and began singing Can You Smell That Smell. They all laughed and another case was solved. 

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. 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