Exploring Rare and Exotic Countertop Styles That Are Not Granite

Nelson Tile & Stone Logo
Nelson Tile and Stone
June 21, 2024

Exotic kitchen countertops offer unique aesthetics and exceptional durability, standing out from the more common choices like granite, marble, and quartz. Homeowners and designers choose these materials for their distinctive look and unparalleled quality. Popular exotic options at the forefront of this category include lava stone, onyx, semi-precious gemstone, traonyx, and petrified wood. Each of these lesser-used surfaces provides a blend of beauty, functionality, and uniqueness that undoubtedly enhances any space they are added to.

Lava Stone: A Volcanic Marvel

Lava stone countertops gained popularity around the early 2000s for their ability to withstand extreme heat without damage. Recently, in the last five years, there has been a surge in interest for this style again and Lava stone has become a favorite for many seeking a truly unique countertop surface. Its natural material is celebrated for its robustness and distinct eye-catching appearance.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Offers a variety of colors and textures to match any kitchens' color palette, featuring natural pockmarks and swirls. It can be finished with a smooth gloss or matte appearance.
  • Durability: A solid choice overall. Lava stone is highly resilient and resistant to scratches, cracks, and stains.
  • Cost Factor: Typically more expensive than more well known options due to rarity and complex processing.
  • Low Maintenance: Requires occasional sealing to maintain its pristine look.

Lava stone’s unique look and exceptional heat resistance make it a standout choice for homeowners who love to cook and entertain. Its durability ensures it can handle the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen while adding a distinctive, natural charm to your home.

Onyx: Captivating Designs

Onyx countertops have surged in popularity for their luxurious and translucent properties, allowing for dramatic under-cabinet lighting effects. When you want to outfit a bar, bathroom or kitchen countertop with something that really captures and holds onto a person's attention, Onyx prevails above the competition.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Striking appearance with vibrant colors and unique veining.
  • Durability: Less durable, prone to scratching, requires regular sealing and careful handling.
  • Cost Factor: High due to rarity and maintenance needs.
  • Uniqueness: Translucent properties set it apart from other materials.

Onyx surfaces are perfect for those who want their kitchen or bath to exude luxury and drama. Its stunning translucency, especially when backlit, creates an ethereal glow that transforms your space into a visual masterpiece, ideal for impressing guests and making a bold design statement. 

Semi-Precious Gemstone: Artistic Luxury

Semi-precious gemstone countertops, featuring stones like agate, amethyst, and jasper, have become popular for their opulent and artistic qualities they possess.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Stunning patterns and colors, often backlit to enhance beauty.
  • Durability: Hard and resilient but can be more susceptible to scratches.
  • Cost Factor: High due to the rarity and labor-intensive process.
  • Uniqueness: Offers a unique, luxurious appearance unmatched by other materials.

Semi-precious gemstone countertops are for the homeowner who wants their kitchen to double as an art gallery. The vibrant colors and unique patterns of stones like agate and amethyst create a captivating focal point, making every meal prep feel like a luxurious experience.

Traonyx: A Combination of Stunning Surfaces

This material brings together the light-catching beauty of onyx and the earthy warmth of travertine, perfect for creating a balanced and elegant kitchen environment. Its unique combination of translucence and earthy tones provides a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for family gatherings and cozy dinners.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Blends the translucence of onyx with the earthy tones of travertine.
  • Durability: More durable than pure onyx, requires regular maintenance.
  • Cost Factor: Moderate to high, reflecting its unique composition.
  • Uniqueness: Dual nature of being both translucent and earthy.

Traonyx countertops are ideal for those who desire a sophisticated yet practical kitchen, with a bit of uniqueness you won't find in other kitchens.

Petrified Wood: Wood-like Stone

Petrified wood countertops, formed over millions of years, bring ancient history and natural beauty into modern kitchens. This material captures the intricate details of wood grain preserved in stone, creating a truly one-of-a-kind surface.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Features intricate patterns resembling wood grain but with stone durability.
  • Durability: Extremely durable and resistant to heat, scratches, and stains.
  • Cost Factor: High, due to rarity and complex processing.
  • Uniqueness: Provides a unique, historical appeal unmatched by other materials.

This unique material tells a story of ancient times while providing a robust and stunning surface that makes every kitchen activity feel special and connected to the earth.

How to Choose the Right Exotic Countertop for Your Kitchen

Selecting the ideal exotic countertop is a multifaceted decision that goes beyond simply picking the most visually appealing option. Here are some practical considerations to guide you through the process:

Material Durability

Understand the longevity and best practices for each material. Assess the strength and resistance of the countertop to scratches, heat, and stains. For example, while lava stone and petrified wood offer exceptional durability, onyx and semi-precious gemstones may require more delicate handling.

Maintenance Needs

Consider the upkeep required for cleanliness and longevity. Exotic materials often have specific maintenance requirements. For instance, onyx needs regular sealing to prevent etching and staining, whereas lava stone is low maintenance. Ensure you're comfortable with the level of care each material demands before making your decision.

Aesthetic Appeal

Think about the color, texture, and overall visual impact of the countertop. While it’s tempting to choose based on looks alone, think about how the countertop will integrate into your existing kitchen or bathroom design. Sometimes a stunning countertop can effortlessly enhance your interior, while other times, it may necessitate a more extensive remodel to achieve a cohesive look.


Evaluate the costs of materials and installation. Exotic countertops can vary significantly in price, from moderately expensive options like traonyx to high-end choices like semi-precious gemstones. Include the cost of professional installation, as these materials often require skilled handling to ensure a flawless finish. Additionally, factor in any potential remodel costs needed to properly integrate the countertop into your space.

Installation Complexity

Understand the installation process and any special requirements. Exotic materials often need precise and professional installation to prevent damage and ensure longevity. For example, onyx and semi-precious gemstone countertops are delicate and require expert handling. Consider whether your chosen material’s installation complexity aligns with your budget and timeline.


Ensure the material suits your cooking and lifestyle needs. Think about how you use your kitchen or bathroom. If you frequently cook with acidic ingredients or need a surface that can handle hot pots and pans, materials like lava stone and soapstone might be more suitable. Choose a countertop that not only looks great but also meets your functional requirements.

If you’re searching for a reliable remodeling partner to source top, luxury exotic countertops, get in touch with our team at Nelson Tile and Stone and let our expertise guide you to the perfect surface to elevate your home or business!