Difference between Granite and Marble

Updated on February 24, 2018

How would you like your countertop to be made of the same material as the Egyptian pyramids or the magnificent statues of ancient Greece? Granite and marble have been used since ancient times. Both have characteristics builders look for in terms of durability and beauty. However, these two stones are fairly different in many ways.


The various color range of granite

Granite is a kind of igneous rock unique to Earth. It can only be found here and nowhere else in our solar system. Igneous rocks such as granite come from hot molten magma caught between layers of rock beneath the surface of the Earth. When the magma cools, it gradually turns into solid granite. Depending on its mineral composition, its color can range from pink to gray.

Granite contains several types of minerals including feldspar, quartz, mica and hornblende. These minerals become crystals, which can be seen once the stone is cut and polished.

The Earth’s crust is largely made up of granite. Though granite is formed beneath the Earth, earthquakes have forced it upwards, creating granite mountains.

Granite is very hard and dense, making it strong and durable. It was difficult to work with in the past, but  advancements in the industry have made granite cutting and shaping easier than ever before. It is water-resistant and does not easily react to chemicals. It can withstand acid rain longer and is a better substitute for marble when making monuments. Polished granite makes for great kitchen countertops as it is durable and beautiful.

The granite industry has been around since ancient times and is considered one of the oldest industries in history.

Marble balusters in the Library of Congress

Marble is a metamorphic rock formed from the transformation of limestone or dolomite rock. Colored marble with swirls and veins are caused by mineral impurities such as silt, clay, sand, chert and iron oxides. These minerals are mixed and layered within the limestone. The green coloration found in marble is caused by serpentine minerals mixing with limestone with high magnesium content. Intense heat and pressure during metamorphosis recrystallizes these mineral impurities to cause the coloration in the marble.

White marble was a popular medium used by sculptors during classical times. In addition to being soft and easy to carve, it is relatively resistant to shattering. It s inherent “waxy” look gives marble sculptures that so-called “breath of life” sculptors want.

Marble has a level of porousness that makes it susceptible to stain and damage caused by liquid and acidic food spills. Placing hot cooking utensils can also damage the stone over time. Acidic liquids such as lime juice and vinegar can dull the luster in the marble. Applying sealants and polishers help increase marble’s resistance to damage.

Sealants or not, marble will eventually become duller. The Taj Mahal in India is made of pure marble and is now threatened by pollution. 

Granite vs Marble

So what’s the difference between granite and marble? Using granite and marble has been practiced since ancient times. The characteristic beauty and strength of these stones still make them a popular choice of builders, craftsmen and homeowners alike. However, these two are different in more ways than one.

Granite is an igneous rock, formed by hot magma that has cooled beneath the Earth’s crust. Marble is classified as a metamorphic rock that came from limestone, also formed beneath the Earth’s surface. In terms of appearance, the color of granite can range from pink to gray. Recrystallized minerals in the stone give granite that unique, speckled surface. Marble is usually grayish-white or cream-colored. The swirls and veins on its surface are brought about by mineral impurities such as iron oxide and silt.

Granite is hard and durable, whereas marble is “soft” and more prone to liquid damage and stain. Marble is easier to carve because it is softer, but granite is glossier. Both stones are porous, but granite does a better in job resisting any form of liquid damage. Granite is also less susceptible to heat damage compared to marble.

It is also important to remember that both stones can cause certain health risks. Some types of granite have been found to have higher levels of radioactivity. Dust particles from cutting marble are known to cause lung disease as well.

Comparison Chart

Classified as an igneous rock.Classified as a metamorphic rock.
Harder and more durable.Softer and more porous.
Some types have higher radioactivity levelsDust particles can cause lung disease
Glossy, speckled surface.“Waxy” surface with swirls and lines
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