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Granite Countertops

Granite is a common widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals (phenocrysts) are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic texture is sometimes known as a porphyry. Granites can be pink to gray in color, depending on their chemistry and mineralogy. By definition, granite is an igneous rock with at least 20% quartz by volume. Granite differs from granodiorite in that at least 35% of the feldspar in granite is alkali feldspar as opposed to plagioclase; it is the alkali feldspar that gives many granites a distinctive pink color. Outcrops of granite tend to form tors and rounded massifs. Granites sometimes occur in circular depressions surrounded by a range of hills, formed by the metamorphic aureole or hornfels. Granite is usually found in the continental plates of the Earth’s crust.

Marble Countertops

Marble is a non-foliated metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. Geologists use the term “marble” to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material. The resulting marble rock is typically composed of an interlocking mosaic of carbonate crystals. Primary sedimentary textures and structures of the original carbonate rock (protolith) have typically been modified or destroyed. Pure white marble is the result of metamorphism of a very pure (silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. The characteristic swirls and veins of many colored marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert which were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone.

Onyx Countertops

Onyx is formed from carbonate minerals that are dissolved when limestone or dolomite sediments come into contact with hot water. Heat from recent volcanic activity causes a hydrothermal alteration and the dissolved minerals are then precipitated when these fluids reach the surface. The dripping water forms onyx deposits and impurities alter the colors. Color selection ranges from hites to greens and from the brown hues that range from reds to orange – even pink. Beyond the unusual circumstances in which onyx is formed, the end result is an exotic material with a depth of color that is simply striking. Unlike other materials, such granite and marble, quarries of onyx are comparatively small. Onyx is found in only a single layer in the earth. This makes the Onyx deposits much smaller and rarer. You can learn more about the formation of onyx slabs at Wikipedia. Onyx slabs are an exceptionally unique material that is often chosen for its beauty to build fireplace surrounds, baths, bars and accent walls. Each onyx slab from the same quarry will have similar characteristics, but none will be identical. Many onyx slabs are translucent and can be backlit for a beautiful and dramatic effect. Onyx is not recommended for countertops that will see heavy usage.

Limestone Countertops

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera. Limestone makes up about 10% of the total volume of all sedimentary rocks. The solubility of limestone in water and weak acid solutions leads to karst landscapes, in which water erodes the limestone over thousands to millions of years. Most cave systems are through limestone bedrock. Limestone has numerous uses, including as building material, as aggregate to form the base of roads, as white pigment or filler in products such as toothpaste or paints, and as a chemical feedstock.

Quartz Countertops

Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth’s continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Throughout the world, varieties of quartz have been, since antiquity, the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewelry and hardstone carvings. Quartz is an essential constituent of granite and other felsic igneous rocks. It is very common in sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and shale and is also present in variable amounts as an accessory mineral in most carbonate rocks. It is also a common constituent of schist, gneiss, quartzite and other metamorphic rocks. Because of its resistance to weathering it is very common in stream sediments and in residual soils. Quartz, therefore, occupies the lowest potential to weather in the Goldich dissolution series.