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Since the days of the pharaohs, granite has been valued for its inert, near-diamond hardness. Rough granite cobbles pave many centuries-old plazas and streets, and thin granite cladding soars up the exteriors of modern skyscrapers.

Those same qualities make granite an ideal material for kitchen countertops. The stone shrugs off the daily abuses of spills, dings and knife scratches, not to mention scalding-hot pots. For prestige alone, granite is the top of the line when it comes to kitchen countertops. Granite can be found in literally hundreds of shades and variations. Granite also comes in a variety of patterns. Some have a lot of “veining” or “movement,” while other slabs may have tighter knit or speckled patterns.

Here are some tips for helping you choose the best granite for your kitchen:

* Suppliers generally sell granite in 2-centimeter (about 3/4 -inch) or 3-centimeter (about 1 1/4 -inch) thicknesses for interior uses. Thicker slabs usually need to be ordered directly from a quarry.

* Granite is available in an impressive range of colors, including shades of blue, yellow, red and rust, aqua, black, blue, pink, green, pearl and burgundy — and combinations thereof that are seen in crystals and veining. The location of the quarry and minerals in the stone contribute to the coloration. But variations can even be found within the stone.

* Granite comes in different price ranges depending on the rarity of the stone you want. A stone like St. Cecelia will run cheaper than Amazon Green, but no matter what stone you choose, all granites are inherently similar. The base prices are driven up by the cost of fabrication, which means fitting the material to your site and includes cutouts for sinks in kitchen counter tops, an especially popular use of stone — also for cutting angles (or miters), corners, edge and decorative treatments.

* The more work a fabricator has to put into the counter, the more you pay. When selecting granite a person will need to decide on which of several types of polished edges she prefers. These vary in complexity, from a simple rounded edge to a slightly rounded bull nose to a full bull nose to a fancier Dupont or cove-Dupont edge. The latter, because they require more complicated cutting and polishing, are more expensive. Stick to standard edge profiles to save money. If money is an issue, pick your granite counter from slabs the fabricator has in stock. Ask the fabricator if he has any slabs that are not selling. Sometimes you can get a real bargain.

* When purchasing a granite countertop, a customer must choose between an under-mount sink or a top-mount or drop-in sink. Under-mounts are most popular because they do not have a lip, and water or food on the counter can be pushed directly into the sink. Some people feel a slate sink complements the natural granite better than stainless steel.

If you are looking to take your kitchen to the next level, contact the experts at Kreative Kitchens & Baths for help in choosing and installing the perfect granite slab to suit your unique tastes and needs.