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Shading and Variation in Natural Stone

Like snowflakes and fall leaves, the inherent beauty of natural stone comes from its unique variations. Differences in color, pattern, and size not only create intriguing designs, but also personalize a home. You could have two identical blueprints using stone material—but when constructed, each building will have its own special brand. 

But just how many variations are there? And what influences them? 

Let’s discuss. 

Origins of Stone Variation

Every stripe and vein on a stone takes hundreds, even thousands of years to form. According to the Natural Stone Council, the nature of stone stems from a number of natural processes, including:

  • Underground springs
  • Mineral deposits
  • Tectonic shifts
  • Temperature
  • Natural solutions or chemicals
  • Underground pressure

While artificial stone producers try to replicate these results, they usually fall short of mother nature. Like diamonds, natural stone will almost always outrank man-made varieties.

Natural Stone Variations

Marbling or stripes? Rich shades or light neutrals? With so many unique stone aesthetics, exploring your options is a must. Across all natural stone types, you’ll find a wide range of colors, stone finishes, and patterns to fit your personal taste.


Color is the entry point for many natural stone buyers—after all, it’s a major factor in any design. The most common stone color family is neutrals, but you’ll also find some gorgeous rainbow shades. Across different stone types, colors can include:

  • White
  • Beige or brown
  • Black
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Pink
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Teal
  • Green
  • Metallics

Often, a natural stone slab will have a base color with secondary overtones—the complexity is what gives them such beauty. Remember that every stone type has a particular range of colors, so make sure your choice includes a preferred shade.


Think of a stone’s pattern as its fingerprint—no two slabs will have the same one. Every stone has distinct details that add depth and draw the eye, from veins to graining to stripes.

Just like color, each type of stone has a typical range in pattern. For a cleaner look, you’ll want stones with more uniform or solid backdrops, like our White Limestone. For a complex appearance, go for scattered veining (our Nero, Breccia Fiore, and Breccie Nuvole Marbles) or more distinct grains (our Pewter Limestone).

Other Factors for Natural Stone Variation

Color and pattern will probably take the lead when shopping for natural stone. But without proper consideration, other elements can completely alter a stone’s appearance. Between its raw and finished state, the same stone can look like two different materials. 

Let’s dive into the impact of styling and architecture on natural stone variation.


Are you installing natural stone tile above your tiny stovetop? Maybe an entirely new kitchen countertop? 

When it comes to displaying variation, size matters. Smaller areas take less focus, turning eye-catching patterns or colors into pops of detail. On the other hand, a large area lets a rich pattern shine, showing off different veins or grains across a stone’s surface. 

And don’t forget thickness or height. Shaving down a stone can reveal a different pattern than originally desired. For safety, stick with a material that already matches your height needs, or ask for a sample at the desired thickness. 


Finish deeply impacts natural stone appearances, transforming a surface’s texture, color, and reflectivity. Applied after mining, a finish gives the material its final aesthetic dimension—radiant, subdued, glossy, rough, or otherwise.

Some of the most common natural stone finishes:  

  • Polished – Created with diamond material, polished finishes give a glossy sheen with minimal porosity—a great option for highlighting rich colors.
  • Honed – Matte and flattening, honed finishes smooth down stone for a subdued finish.
  • Sandblasted – High-pressure aerosol blasts of sand or grit remove surface particles until the stone is finely textured. 
  • Flamed – Miners run a hot torch over the stone’s surface, creating a partially rough surface with no slickness.
  • Brushed – For a vintage look, brushing with wire or metal materials can mattify and smooth stone to an aged aesthetic.

At Materials Marketing, we offer up to 11 unique finishes for each stone variety. From Suede to Parisian, our custom finishes cater to all interior design aesthetics and styles.  


From life’s problems to interior design, perspective matters. You don’t often get eye-to-eye with your floor. But a bathroom wall? That’s an up-close, everyday view. If you happen to be completing a bathroom remodel, we share all our tips for remodeling your bathroom.

From a five foot distance, small variations in natural stone will likely go unnoticed on your floor. Vertical natural stone applications, however, are great chances to show off unique veining or swirl patterns. Keep in mind that the larger and closer the surface, the more a stone’s variation will stick out. 


In our photo-filled world, it’s hard to ignore the importance of lighting. And that same importance applies to your home’s stone countertop. 

Putting a rosy pink granite under harsh fluorescents? You’ll wash out the material’s natural warmth. Installing a veined marble slab in a dimly lit room? The unique pattern will go unappreciated. Tone, strength, and placement of interior lighting can make or break a stone’s appearance. Avoid any regrets by testing a sample under home lights.

Types of Natural Stones with Variations

By now, we know each type of natural stone has its own special range across colors and patterns. But what aesthetic does each stone embody? Is it better to use marble for uniform floors? Travertine for countertops?

To ease your shopping, we’re going to break down the variations within our four Material Marketing stones. 

  • Limestone – Considered the most basic natural stone, limestone is renowned for its even texture, versatility, and durability. Varieties come in whites, beiges, blacks, blues, and reds, and usually have minor grains or flecks.
  • Travertine – A softer, more porous limestone variant, travertine is lighter in overall appearance. Patterns include stripes and swirls reminiscent of a planet surface, usually in soft creams and beiges.
  • Adoquin – This volcanic ash stone brings an earthy, rustic vibe to homes. Hues vary from dark grey to rosy peach to taupe, usually with large and multi-colored flecks.
  • Marble – Luxurious and striking, marble’s distinct veins and wide range of neutral tones arise from exposure to high pressures and temperatures. 

Materials Marketing: Natural Stone for Your Home’s Natural Beauty

Whether upgrading your shower tile or installing a stone floor, natural stone variation is a crucial consideration. Leverage nature’s beauty in your home with our associates at Materials Marketing. 

As experts of our products, we can ensure a seamless integration of natural stone into any design. Should you have any questions (or if you just want to talk to any expert), don’t hesitate to reach out! 

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