Stone Countertops: From Quarries to Kitchens, Part 1
Before our stone countertops cross the world to become part of our kitchens, they start their journey deep in the earth. Today we’ll take a closer look at where, and what, three of the most popular stones for kitchen countertops come from.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, which means it starts as a sandstone made of quartz. Quartzite usually is formed by the pressure when continents push into each other, making mountains. This pressure is part of why quartzite is so dense and tough.
Quartzsite is primarily grey and white. The other colors such as blue orange green yellow pink and red exist due to other included minerals. Quartzite comes from mines across the United States in South Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona and California. It’s also mined in the UK, Canada and Brazil.
More about Marble:
When it comes to kitchens, “marble” means much more than it might to a geologist. Geologically speaking, marble is either limestone or dolomite that has been heated and pressured until its crystal components melt and re-harden, metamorphosing into a stronger stone. In construction, the term ‘marble’ refers to a variety of crystalline stones that can take and keep a beautiful polished surface.
Marble has been used decoratively since ancient times and remains popular today. The art of imitating marble has been around almost as long as we have been mining it. The top marble producers are Italy, China, India and Spain. There are also some beautiful varieties mined in the US.
Here are a couple minutes from an award-winning short documentary about a Carrera marble quarry in the Italian Alps. Watching those huge blocks of priceless marble crack and fall over is mesmerizing.
The Goods on Granite:
Unlike marble and quartzite, granite is an igneous rock, which means that it is made of cooled magma from the center of the Earth. It comes in a wide range of colors because it often coexists with other minerals. Granite based rocks form the base of all land continents on earth, and this is why granite can be mined from anywhere across the globe.
In the kitchen industry as well as others, the word ‘granite’ is used to describe any igneous rock made of large crystals. This means that your granite kitchen countertop may not technically be ‘granite’ while still being a sturdy and beautiful stone.
Granite was used in the buildings of ancient Egypt. It was often kept for their monuments and to be the capstone of pyramids. Granite monuments hold up very well over extremely long periods of time due to their resistance to acid rains and abrasion.
When mining granite, explosives are used to carve out large chunks of granite from the quarry walls. Diamond saws cut the granite down for easier movement, and then into slabs. Even smaller sections of granite are extremely heavy; a 10-foot by 5-foot piece that is 1 inch thick will weigh about 750 pounds. After a basic polish is applied, the slabs of granite are ready to go out to the showrooms. See the whole process in 5 minutes in this clip from How It’s Made:
Out of the Earth and Into the Home
Once the granite, quartzite, or marble is in slabs, they are ordered by countertop fabricating shops and imported to the slab yards. In the slab yards, customers browse and choose one of these beautiful and unique slices of our earth’s crust to make a part of their home. They weigh the look, cost and features of each type of stone, and then have to choose between slabs of that stone, each one of a kind. What a tough choice!