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Granite is a hard, coarse-grained rock that makes up a large part of every continent. Granite contains three main minerals - quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase feldspar. These minerals make granite white, pink, or light grey. Granite also contains small amounts of dark brown, dark-green, or black minerals, such as hornblende and biotite mica. The grains of the minerals in granite are large enough that they can easily be distinguished.

The minerals in granite are interlocked like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Consequently, granite is a strong and durable which makes it useful for construction.

Geologists classify granite as an igneous rock. The slow cooling and crystallization of molten material called magma forms most granite. Magma has the same chemical composition as granite. It forms from rocks that melt 16 to 25 miles (25 to 40 kilometers') below the surface of the continents. These rocks melt at temperatures between 1200' and 1650' f. (650' and 900' c). As the magma rises, it cools. Most granite magma cools slowly enough to form coarse crystals and it solidifies below the earth's surface.

Sometimes granitic magma erupts from volcanoes and cools too quickly to form large crystals. The resulting rock, called rhyolite, has the same mineral composition as granite but is fine grained.

Granite is composed of quartz, feldspars and micas, as well as traces of a wide variety of other minerals. These minerals contribute to the color and texture of the various granites. Crystal size is somewhat determined by the rate at which the granite cools: the slower the cooling process, the larger the crystals grow.

Faster cooling produces fine-grained granites. Granites get their wonderful variety of colors and patterns from minerals that are melted into the liquid mass as it is formed.


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