Origin: Soapstone is a natural stone, like granite, that is quarried. It's composed mostly of mineral talc, which makes it quite soft, but soapstone used for countertops typically has higher percentages of quartz in it, which makes it harder and more suitable as a kitchen surface.
Pros: Beautiful natural grey color, smooth matte feel, resistant to etching from acids, scratches can be sanded or oiled away; great surface for making pastries.
Cons: Requires maintenance; not as heat resistant as granite; not impervious to dents and scratches; regular oiling and buffing recommended; the color darkens with age (which may be a pro for some).
Granite is the traditional favorite kitchen counter top material for its unique colors and patterns, proven durability and lasting value.
Granite counter tops are of course natural stone that is heat, scratch and stain resistant and nearly impossible to damage if you follow some simple procedures for cleaning granite countertops.
Granite is a good choice for any project inside or outside including walls and floors.
These are gorgeous stones prized for their elegant beauty. Hundreds of different color and pattern combinations are available.
Marble counter tops are softer than granite, which makes it more susceptible to scratches. However, contrary to what you may have read, most marble is not very porous and does notstain easy (though being a natural product there is variation).
In fact, polished marble is nearly stain-proof and rarely needs sealing. Marble does etch easily though and most people mistake etching for staining, which is incorrect.
Etching is a reaction from acidic foods and drinks like sauces, fruit, coffee and soda.
Etch marks also occur from using too harsh household cleaning products and chemicals that leavea clear, but noticeable dull mark on a polished surface.
You can better hide this problem with a matte or honed surface, but only avoiding contact with damaging substances will stop etching.
Sealing has nothing to do with it and won't prevent etching, which is why marble is not a good choice for a kitchen countertop.
Engineered stone, or quartz counter tops are an excellent product manufactured from 93% quartz (which comes from granite) and a binding resin.
Quartz countertops are very similar to granite and both will make excellent countertops, but marketing efforts confuse and distort the pros & cons of each.
For a complete head to head comparison go to Silestone vs. Granite.
Several companies (Silestone, Cambria, Zodiaq, Caesarstone) offer basically the same product (material composition) with different colors and patterns that in total are somewhat limited compared to granite and marble. However, the major quartz manufacturers have upgraded their color palette in recent years with many beautiful choices.