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granite - irregular gray and black stone

Granite rock

What is granite?

Granite forms when bits of quartz and feldspar shoot out of volcanoes, so it’s one kind of igneous rock.

What is quartz?
Where does feldspar come from?
More about igneous rock
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Why is the rock called “granite”?

Limestone steps of a building

Granite stairs on the Queens borough public library, New York City

The word “granite” comes from the Latin wordgranum“, a grain, because granite is made of lots of smaller bits of quartz and feldspar stuck together (think of our word “granary”, a place where you store grain). Granite comes in different colors, usually pink to gray or sometimes black.

Why is granite so hard?

Granite’s a very hard stone. It’s hard because it formed as hot liquid stone, and so the molecules inside it are all jumbled up any which way, instead of lying in layers the way they do in sedimentary rocks like limestone or slate.

How did stone-cutters cut granite?

Granite is so hard that it’s also hard to cut into blocks or statues. To cut granite, stone-cutters poured sand into a groove and rubbed the sand in with a copper saw – this pushed the sand into the cut and made the cut deeper, like sandpaper.

Granite head of Nefertiti (now in Berlin)

Granite head of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti (now in Berlin)

What do people use granite for?

Because granite is so hard, artists and architects sometimes use it for building stone or statues if you want them to last a long time. Or, if you want to make people think your children and grandchildren will be ruling your country for a really long time.

Egyptian sculpture
Old Kingdom art

In ancient Egypt, sculptors used granite to carve statues of pharaohs. People today often use granite for banks, to show that they will last forever and are safe places to keep your money. People use granite as an expensive kind of kitchen countertop, too.

Learn by doing: finding different kinds of rocks
More about igneous rocks

Bibliography and further reading about rocks:

Find out more about quartz
More about igneous rocks
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