Carrara marble, which is excavated from Italy's mountainous region --- Carrara --- is prized for its white color and distinctive gray veining. It's a luxurious product that's durable, versatile and elegant. It's also an expensive material, especially when used in quantities for kitchen counters, floors and bathrooms. Fortunately, there are other types of stone that have both distinctive and comparable qualities to Carrara marble.
Like marble, granite is a stone that's excavated from the earth. It's an igneous rock composed of diverse minerals including garnet, zircon and quartz, which give each slab a unique appearance. Look for granite in jet black, deep green flecked with gold, and even shades of blue. Granite is durable and heat- and scratch-resistant, so it's a good choice for high-traffic zones such as kitchens.
Onyx is a semi-precious stone that's mined in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Iran and China and sold, like marble and granite, in large slabs, each with its own distinctive color, pattern and veining. Onyx is naturally translucent, which is why it's commonly used for lamps or backlit when used as a kitchen countertop or wall panel. Onyx sinks, tubs and wall tiles are common alternatives to Carrara marble, since onyx can be found in pale honey, celadon and white tones.
Quartz is a natural stone that's one of the hardest and most non-porous minerals on earth, making it an ideal option for kitchens, bathrooms and flooring. Quartz is available in a range of colors and has a similar look and feel to granite, though granite is porous unless it's sealed. Along with its beautiful and highly reflective surface, quartz is resistant to mold, mildew, stains, chips and cracks. Some solid quartz surfaces made into countertops consist of 90 percent or more of natural quartz, combined with resins that provide added strength to the material.
Soapstone often gets ignored when compared to other types of stone such as marble, granite, onyx and quartz. It's durable, but softer than granite. And it doesn't come in the same myriad hues. Soapstone has a smooth, velvety texture and is typically found in naturally dark tones such as charcoal gray and black. It's commonly used for counters and sinks, but it is vulnerable to chipping and scratching.
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