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UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

A Note on Stone Types

Historically, it has been commercial practice to group stones within performance and behavioral groups as opposed to true scientific definition. This is recognized in several ASTM International standards. While scientifically there are hundreds of rock type identifications, only nine groups are commonly acknowledged commercially: Granite, Limestone, Marble, Onyx, Quartzite, Sandstone, Serpentine, Slate, Soapstone, and Travertine. This means that some rocks are included in groups which are not perfectly coincident with their scientific definition (see table below). The National Building Stone Database uses both commercial and scientific classification types, allowing users to search for a particular stone using either name.  1

Generic Grouping Petrographic Name Common Name Commerical Group (ASTM)
IGNEOUS Basalt
Dolerite/Diabase
Picrite
BASALT GRANITE
Intrusive:
Granite
Diorite
Gabbro
Peridotite
Syenite
GRANITE

Extrusive:
Rhyolite
Andesite

METAMORPHIC Gneiss
Quartzite QUARTZITE QUARTZ-BASED
Schist SCHIST OTHER
Phyllite
Slate SLATE SLATE
Serpentinite
Marble
MARBLE MARBLE
SEDIMENTARY

Dolomite
Travertine
Limestone (polishable)

Limestone (nonpolishable) LIMESTONE LIMESTONE
Sandstone SANDSTONE QUARTZ-BASED

 

Grain Size

Grain size (or crystal size in crystalline rocks) is an important parameter in describing and classifying rocks. The National Building Stone Database has adopted a grain size classification scheme derived from one developed by the British Geological Survey (BGS).2 This scheme is based on the Wentworth (1922) phi scale which is widely used to define grain size in sediments and sedimentary rocks. Modifications incorporated in the BGS scheme extend grain size divisions developed for sedimentary rocks to crystalline rocks, ensuring uniformity between different rock types and simplifying data structure. The grain size divisions for all rock types can now be conveyed in one diagram (see below).

The terms used in the database (i.e. very coarse, coarse, medium, fine, very fine, and cryptocrystalline) correspond to the terms shown in the farthest right column in the chart below. The term cryptocrystalline is used for rocks that are so fine-grained that crystals cannot be readily differentiated under the microscope.3

Phi units Clast or crystal size in mm (fractional mm).
Log scale
Sedimentary clasts Size terms Volcaniclastic fragments Crystalline rocks, igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary
      boulders GRAVEL blocks and bombs very-coarse grained
very-coarse crystalline
-8 256  
  cobbles
     
-6 64  
  pebbles lapilli
     
-4 16  
  coarse-grained
coarse-crystalline
     
-2 4  
  granules
     
-1 2  
  very-coarse sand SAND coarse ash grains medium-grained
medium-crystalline
     
0 1  
  coarse sand
     
1 0.5 (1/2)  
  medium sand
     
2 0.25 (1/4)  
  fine sand fine-grained
fine-crystalline
     
3 0.125 (1/8)  
  very-fine sand
     
5 0.032 (1/32)  
  silt MUD fine ash grains very-fine grained
very-fine crystalline
     
8 0.004 (1/256)  
  clay cryptocrystalline
     

 

NOTES

  • 1. J.P. Ingham, "Geomaterials Under the Microscope: A Colour Guide," (London, UK: Manson Publishing, 2011).
  • 2. British Geological Survey, BGS Rock Classification Scheme, documentation, available online at http://bgs.ac.uk/bgsrcs/ (accessed 3/20/2015).
  • 3. M.R. Gillespie and M.T. Styles, "BGS Rock Classification Scheme: Classification of Igneous Rocks," vol. 1, no. RR 99-06 (Notingham, UK: British Geological Survey, 1999), p. 6., available online at http://bgs.ac.uk/bgsrcs/ (accessed 3/20/2015).