The Natural Science of Quartz Countertops

Quartz is a remarkable mineral with countless applications, many of them industrial, and is also recognized worldwide for its pleasing luster and tremendous variety of colors. It is easily the most common mineral in the world and is readily found in mines, quarries, outcrops and sand. Quartz is hard, durable and chemically stable. Let’s discuss why this amazing mineral goes hand in hand when designed and used for countertops? The natural science of Quartz countertops!

The Natural Science of Quartz Countertops

Minerals are naturally occurring and have a molecular structure that arranges itself in a crystal lattice. Quartz is silicon and oxygen (SiO2, “silicon dioxide”) and is classified as a silicate mineral. What gives quartz it’s unique properties is the special way these SiO2 molecules arrange themselves.

Quartz molecules form pyramids called “tetrahedra” which link together in a solid framework. This simple framework is remarkably strong and is responsible for quartz’s hardness. It is harder than glass and even many steels, making it an excellent choice for countertops. It’s so hard that drilling through it requires diamond-coated drill bits. As it turns out, silicon dioxide is also very chemically stable. One reason why there is so much of it is that it simply does not react with most other compounds, another property that makes it a viable option for countertops.

As for color, this mineral is unparalleled. Quartz exists in every color and shade. The most common varieties are either clear or white with white deriving its color from tiny inclusions of gas or liquid trapped within the crystal structure. Most other colors are the result of small inclusions of other elements or minerals. Red, or “rose” quartz gets its color from small impurities of titanium, manganese or iron. Purple amethyst contains iron impurities which, during crystal formation in the earth, have been exposed to radiation by natural means within the host rock (don’t worry, amethyst is not radioactive!) Citrine, the yellow variety, contains traces of iron-bearing compounds but can also be made artificially by heating amethyst. Black “smokey” quartz was exposed to radiation during crystal formation (again, not radioactive).

To make quartz into countertops, quartz “sand” is mixed with resin, using a ratio of about 95% and 5% respectively. The addition of resin bonds the quartz grains together, essentially creating an artificial sandstone. This allows for different quartzes to be mixed to achieve different colors or shades. Resin also adds a degree of ductility, making the surface even more durable.

Please contact us to discuss options for a quartz countertop. We will gladly provide estimates on request and would be delighted to assist in your kitchen remodel.