If you’re researching countertops for an upcoming kitchen remodel, quartz probably keeps popping up on sites like Pinterest and Houzz, or in the pages of your favorite design magazine. It’s become a design favorite in recent years (the pattern above is Cosmopolitan White from Caesarstone), and it's also the top-rated material in our countertop Ratings, given its ability to shrug off stains. You might also be seeing more references to quartzite, which sounds a lot like quartz and can look similar. But these are actually two separate materials with some very key distinctions. 

Quartz used to be known as engineered stone, because it’s just that—a synthetic material that’s made in a factory out of stone chips, resins, and pigments. Quartzite, by comparison, is a metamorphic rock that originated as sandstone. It's extracted from a quarry and formed into finished slabs that become kitchen countertops, as well as tiles for floors, walls, and backsplashes.

A lot of quartzite has swirling white and gray coloring, two hues that have become extremely popular in kitchens over the last few years (in fact, they were the two color schemes used most in the kitchen by professional designers, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association). That’s driving more interest to the material.

We haven’t tested it in our labs, but quartzite is often compared to granite in terms of hardness and durability. It combines that toughness with the variegated patterning of marble, which makes for an alluring combination. The one caveat is that, like all natural stones, quartzite must be sealed periodically to protect it against wine, citrus, coffee, and other would-be stains.

Because it’s non-porous, quartz does’t have to be sealed, making it much easier to maintain. The tradeoff is that, next to natural stone, with its unique spread of color and sparkle, quartz’s more uniform patterns can be a give away. But manufacturers are getting better at mimicking Mother Nature. We were particularly impressed by the exclusive patterns unveiled by Cambria at the 2016 Design & Construction Week, including the Brittanicca, which could be mistaken for certain cuts of quartzite.            

As for price, quartz and quartzite are in the same higher-end category of countertop materials. But as with most natural stones, you might be able to find a scrap of quartzite at the local stone yard for a reduced price. Given the material’s growing popularity, that would be a pretty lucky find.