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The term "granitic" means granite-like and is applied to granite and a group of intrusive igneous rocks with similar textures and slight variations in composition and origin. These rocks mainly consist of feldspar, quartz, mica, and amphibole minerals, which form an interlocking, somewhat equigranular matrix of feldspar and quartz with scattered darker biotite mica and amphibole (often hornblende) peppering the lighter color minerals. Occasionally some individual crystals (phenocrysts) are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic texture is known as a granite porphyry. Granitoid is a general, descriptive field term for lighter-colored, coarse-grained igneous rocks. Petrographic examination is required for identification of specific types of granitoids. The extrusive igneous rock equivalent of granite is rhyolite.
Granite containing rock is widely distributed throughout the continental crust. Much of it was intruded during the Precambrian age; it is the most abundant basement rock that underlies the relatively thin sedimentary veneer of the continents. Outcrops of granite tend to form tors and rounded massifs. Granites sometimes occur in circular depressions surrounded by a range of hills, formed by the metamorphic aureole or hornfels. Granite often occurs as relatively small, less than 100 km2 stock masses (stocks) and in batholiths that are often associated with orogenic mountain ranges. Small dikes of granitic composition called aplites are often associated with the margins of granitic intrusions. In some locations, very coarse-grained pegmatite masses occur with granite.
Granitoids have crystallized from felsic magmas that have compositions at or near a eutectic point (or a temperature minimum on a cotectic curve). Magmas are composed of melts and minerals in variable abundances. Traditionally, magmatic minerals are crystallized from the melts that have completely separated from their parental rocks and thus are highly evolved because of igneous differentiation. If a granite has a slowly cooling process, it has the potential to form larger crystals.
The composition and origin of any magma that differentiates into granite leave certain petrological evidence as to what the granite's parental rock was. The final texture and composition of a granite are generally distinctive as to its parental rock. For instance, a granite that is derived from partial melting of metasedimentary rocks may have more alkali feldspar, whereas a granite derived from partial melting of metaigneous rocks may be richer in plagioclase. It is on this basis that the modern "alphabet" classification schemes are based.
A-type granites were defined as to occur in anorogenic setting, have alkaline and anhydrous compositions. They show a peculiar mineralogy and geochemistry, with particularly high silicon and potassium at the expense of calcium and magnesium. These granites are produced by partial melting of refractory lithology such as granulites in the lower continental crust at high thermal gradients. This leads to significant extraction of hydrous felsic melts from granulite-facies resitites. A-type granites occur in the Koettlitz Glacier Alkaline Province in the Royal Society Range, Antarctica. The rhyolites of the Yellowstone Caldera are examples of volcanic equivalents of A-type granite.
After more than 50 years of studies, it becomes clear that granitic magmas have separated from their sources and experienced fractional crystallization during their ascent toward the surface. On the other hand, granitic melts can be produced in place through the partial melting of metamorphic rocks by extracting melt-mobile elements such as potassium and silicon into the melts but leaving others such as calcium and iron in granulite residues. Once a metamorphic rock is melted, it becomes a kind of migmatites which are composed of leucosome and melanosome.
Fracture propagation is the mechanism preferred by many geologists as it largely eliminates the major problems of moving a huge mass of magma through cold brittle crust. Magma rises instead in small channels along self-propagating dykes which form along new or pre-existing fracture or fault systems and networks of active shear zones. As these narrow conduits open, the first magma to enter solidifies and provides a form of insulation for later magma.
There is some concern that some granite sold as countertops or building material may be hazardous to health. Dan Steck of St. Johns University has stated that approximately 5% of all granite is of concern, with the caveat that only a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands of granite slab types have been tested. Various resources from national geological survey organizations are accessible online to assist in assessing the risk factors in granite country and design rules relating, in particular, to preventing accumulation of radon gas in enclosed basements and dwellings.
In some areas, granite is used for gravestones and memorials. Granite is a hard stone and requires skill to carve by hand. Until the early 18th century, in the Western world, granite could be carved only by hand tools with generally poor results.
Curling stones are traditionally fashioned of Ailsa Craig granite. The first stones were made in the 1750s, the original source being Ailsa Craig in Scotland. Because of the rarity of this granite, the best stones can cost as much as US$1,500. Between 60 and 70 percent of the stones used today are made from Ailsa Craig granite, although the island is now a wildlife reserve and is still used for quarrying under license for Ailsa granite by Kays of Scotland for curling stones.