Natural Stone Selections: Marble Versus Granite

Marble Versus Granite
Marble (left) and Granite (right).
Photography Courtesy of Arca

Marble and granite are two highly sought-after surfacing materials armed with a timeless allure that elegantly adapts to almost any aesthetic from classic to contemporary. While granite and marble share many common characteristics, an understanding of their unique attributes is essential when deciding between the two. It is worthwhile to weigh the pros and cons of both before determining which one will work best for a particular surfacing project. The information below charts the characteristics of marble and granite, providing a comparison between the two natural stones.

Origins and characteristics of marble

Characterized by its veining, Marble is a metamorphic rock formed from a medley of materials including limestone and dolomite. “Marble begins as limestone subjected to intense heat and pressure that recrystallizes the calcite and changes the texture of the rock,” says Steve Gewirtz, VP of Trade Sales at TileBar. “The process incorporates other minerals, which give it its color and characteristic veining.”

Marble’s collection of qualities—from color to porosity—can vary depending on where it was sourced, and its vast array of varieties includes the ubiquitous Carrara marble, quarried from Italy, along with Crema Marfil marble from Spain, Levadia Black marble from Greece, and many more. From lively pinks and bold greens to edgy charcoals highlighted by hints of metallic, marble has many varieties that are distinguished by distinct patterns and colors, which are a direct result of the distribution of different salts and minerals.

There are two common cuts that should also be considered in regard to the appearance of marble: crosscut and vein cut. With a more open and flowered appearance, crosscut refers to a slab that is cut perpendicular to the marble’s natural bedding, creating a swirled and cloudy look. Crosscut also causes a blend of darker and lighter shades in the same slab. Vein cut refers to a slab that is cut parallel to the natural bedding plane. This creates a more striped look with mineral veins that run vertically along the length of the slab, showcasing lines or layers of compressed sediment.

Origins and characteristics of granite

Often identified by its granular appearance, granite is a light-colored igneous rock chiefly composed of quartz and feldspar along with minimal amounts of mica and other minerals. “Granite forms when magma cools slowly underground allowing large crystals of individual minerals to develop,” says Gewirtz. “These crystals are what gives it its characteristic grains of color.” Granite showcases an assembly of grains, which often appear as specks that are varied in color. As a result, a single slab of granite may be composed of a variety of hues—ranging from oranges, pinks, and reds to blues and greens—which typically appear in medium to dark shades.

Granite is well-regarded for its ability to stand strong against scratches, stains, and high levels of heat. “Granite is often cited as the most durable natural stone available. It is known for resisting cracks and chipping well,” adds Gewirtz. “It has a high content of quartz, which makes it a highly durable natural stone. Feldspar is also a hard mineral that has a presence in the stone.” Natural alterations to the abundance of these minerals give granite its mottled and textural look, while adding to its abundance of colorways.

Durability

While both marble and granite can resist heat, granite is harder than marble and, as such, is more resistant to chips and scratches. “The main component of marble is calcium carbonate, which is softer than the minerals that make up granite,” says Gewirtz. “Marble is more porous by nature and its porosity can make it prone to scratches and stains.” Though marble is markedly more porous, both materials benefit from being properly sealed on a routine basis in order to prevent liquids from penetrating their porous surfaces.

The elegant and enduring appeal of marble and granite can enliven any interior. The two natural stone selections are each inherently equipped with distinct elements that allow them to be suitable for an assortment of surfacing projects.

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