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Quartzite & Marble

Comparing Quartzite With Marble

These two natural stone materials have much to offer in the way of style, architectural strength and desirability. Each stone is a a natural material that forms without the need of any assistance form man. Both have an appealing appearance. And each is offered in stone yards as a surface material for use in kitchens, bathrooms and various other applications. Yet these materials are very different from one another. In this article we are going to be comparing quartzite with marble. Along the way we consider some of the properties of each of these natural stone materials. Additionally, we will take a look why these materials are sought out for use in homes and businesses alike. Finally, we will discuss some of the things that make these materials different from one another.

Why Compare Quartzite and Marble?

It is good to think about the subject and the needs of potential customers when asking the question, "Why make a quartzite and marble comparison?" The reason for considering the final owner of the material is because that is where the benefits can be found. Since both materials have good qualities and can be used for a variety of projects, we are not comparing them in an effort to declare one material better or worse. We are simply describing each of these materials and talking about the properties of each. As you will see though, it is good to know some specific traits of these two stone types. Perhaps one key reason we have for comparing marble with quartzite is to inform and educate people. This helps buyers to identify various materials. It also, helps home owners to care for and maintain either of these materials in a proper manner. Now that we have talked about why we are comparing marble and quartzite, let's get into the comparison.

Characteristics of Marble & Quartzite

We aren't going to elaborate on the details about either of these materials as it relates to countertops. We have already put together information that discusses details of each in other articles such as Quartzite Countertops and Marble Countertops. Instead, we will zero in on a couple of main concepts. The first is what do these materials have in common? And the second is How are they different and why it matters?

Similarities Between Quartzite and Marble

At first glance, it is easy to notice what the visual similarities are between these materials. They both appear to be very elegant and stylish. The colors may at times appear to be very close and even the visual texture of these two stone looks similar. Both stones have a crystalline appearance when viewed closely. This is because the minerals that make up these rocks are actually crystallized. As the images below show, these stones can be very tough to tell apart. For this reason, it is a good idea to know how to tell the difference.

In addition to visual appearance, marble and quartzite are also similar in another way. They are both of the metamorphic rock type. Metamorphic rock is rock that started out as a different kind of rock before its metamorphosis. For more information on this process, you can check out the page entitled What Are Metamorphic Rocks?

Even though quartzite and marble look very similar and they both come about through metamorphosis, they are not the same material. They have differing characteristics that, when compared, show the importance of being educated in how to tell them apart. Let's compare some of those differences now.

Differences Between Marble and Quartzite

As we mentioned above, marble and quartzite have some similar traits. But they also differ in some important ways. For example, quartzite is much harder than marble is. measuring a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, quartzite far surpasses marble which is usually around 3. The reason for the difference in hardness is the minerals that each stone is composed of. In fact, many of the differences between these materials is due to their composition; as we will see a bit later on.

Now it may be tempting to automatically think that a harder material is inherently better. however, that is not necessarily the case. Softer stone is more workable for some application that harder material. Furthermore, hard material can be more brittle and might require caution when cutting, drilling, or grinding the surface. For example, marble is a well-known material for use by sculptors. One reason is because of how easily it is shaped and smoothed. It is also a long lasting material.

The reason for these differences between marble and quartzite is mainly because they contain different material. Quartzite is made of primarily quartz whereas marble is composed of calcite. In fact, the calcite is what makes marble so easy to work and the quartz is what makes the quartzite so hard.

Knowing How to Tell the Difference

It is good to know the difference between quartzite and marble because they look so similar. There are cases where marble slabs are incorrectly labeled as quartzite. This can translate into issues since these materials are made up of different substances as we have discussed. As we stated earlier, it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference just by looking at the stone. So, how can you determine if a stone you are looking at is quartzite or marble? Is there a reliable way to tell the difference? Yes. You can determine whether a stone is marble or quartzite by using one or both of the following tests.

Scratch Test

One way to distinguish a quartzite slab form a marble one is to perform a scratch test. Since these two materials differ in hardness, using a piece of the stone to 'scratch' a material that is harder thanmarble but softer than quartzite will reveal which stone you have. To perform a scratch test do the following:

  • Get a tile of glass.
  • Place the glass on a flat surface.
  • Get a piece of the stone in question.
  • Use a sharp edge or point of the stone to scratch the surface of the glass using high force.
  • One of two things will happen, either the glass will scratch because the stone is harder or the stone will crumble because the glass is harder.
  • If the glass scratches, you have quartzite. If the stone crumbles, you have marble.

You may have to use more than one spot on the stone for this test if the material is multi-colored and made up of different colors of mineral.

Acid Test (Etch Test)

The other kind of test that you can do to differentiate quartzite from marble is the acid test. An acid test works because of the minerals that compose these stones. As previously mentioned, marble is made up of calcite and quartzite is composed of quartz. As it turns out, calcite reacts with acid and the stone will 'etch'. On the other hand, quartz does not react and will not etch. This means that you can expose the stone to acid and see if the reaction happens. To perform an etching test, do the following:

  • Use a small area of the slab the will either be removed during the templating or test a scrap piece of the stone.
  • On part of the polished surface, place a small amount of an acidic liquid like lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Let the liquid sit on the surface for about 10-20 minutes.
  • If the liquid causes the surface of the stone to become either dull looking or faded, the stone is etched.
  • If the stone etches from acidic liquids, it is marble, no etch means you have quartzite.

As we have seen, both marble and quartzite are metamorphic rocks that look very much alike. However, the minerals they are composed of cause them to be very different in ways that are not readily apparent by just looking at them. Each stone has qualities that may be what is needed for a given application and knowing how to tell the difference can be an effective way to get the stone you intend on using.

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