American granite may not be as hard as the Chinese stuff, but it certainly is more defensive. Regarding the MLK memorial kerfuffle over stone choice, reader (and granite sculptor) Clint Button disagrees with my assessment and writes:

The granite industry levied similar warranty concerns about the Viet Nam Wall because that stone (not technically granite) was chosen primarily based upon color. Sounds like MLK Foundation primary defense of their chosen stone. Initially those in charge didn’t understand that specific stone is very brittle. Sounds like “The rock is harder (and more durable)”, doesn’t it?

The Viet Nam Wall’s brittle stone is prone to small cracks that only grow larger over time. Instead of using readily-sourced similar USA stone without those tendencies, there is now enough of that foreign stone being warehoused to replace the entire Wall five times, being paid for by us. That’s a big waste to support an easily avoided poor choice.

Before contracting with China sources for stone or sculpture, MLK Foundation visited the major VT granite quarrier in May 2006 and were told providing VT Gray granite, even if a single 200+ton piece for statue, was no problem. The industry sculpture studio they visited minutes before told them carving statue here was also no problem. But MLK Foundation officials walked out to never let either bid. They only wanted a specific color for their statue, regardless of consequences.

In Jan 2008, that VT quarrier was forced to permanently lay off 1/3 of quarry workers in VT because of a 1 yr surplus inventory already quarried and growing foreign competition. Qualified USA Granite sculptors- who happen to not be black- were misrepresented by default by MLK Foundation as inferior to foreign sources, apparently even to the Chinese company to which Lei Yixin subcontracted the statue carving.

Sounds like American workers paying a severe price via deliberate exclusion from projects like the MLK Memorial. Getting equally screwed just like the un- or underpaid Chinese laborers is little consolation.

In all seriousness, Button makes some good points here about the struggling U.S. granite industry and the symbolism of outsourcing work on a memorial to King. It’s likely that in addition to color, cost was a factor for the MLK National Memorial Foundation’s decision. So it is strange that the foundation made a “pledge” to use mostly granite from the United States, when the ultimate decision was very different.

Photo by Air Watcher via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License