Metamorphic Rocks

Mineral information is presented here; Pictures of minerals are found at the bottom of the page.


Marble is metamorphosed limestone or dolomite. Both limestone and dolomite have a large concentration of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Marble has many different sizes of crystals. Marble has many color variances due to the impurities present at formation. Some of the different colors of marble are white, red, black, mottled and banded, gray, pink, and green.

Marble is much harder than its parent rock. This allows it to take a polish which makes it a good material for use as a building material, making sink tops, bathtubs, and a carving stone for artists. Today, headstones are made from marble and granite because both of these rocks weather very slowly and carve well with sharp edges.

Marble is quarried in Vermont, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, and Alabama.


Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock with perfect cleavage that allows it to split into thin sheets. Slate usually has a light to dark brown streak. Slate is produced by low grade metamorphism, which is caused by relatively low temperatures and pressures.

Slate has been used by man in a variety of ways over the years. One use for slate was in the making of headstones or grave markers. Slate is not very hard and can be engraved easily. The problem with slate though is its perfect cleavage. The slate headstones would crack and split along these cleavage planes. This is not a desirable attribute for a head stone. Slate was also used for chalk boards. The black color was good as a background and the rock cleaned easily with water. Today it is not very advantageous to use this rock because of its weight and the splitting and cracking over time.


Schist is a medium grade metamorphic rock. This means that it has been subjected to more heat and pressure than slate, which is a low grade metamorphic rock. As you can see in the photo above schist is a more coarse grained rock. The individual grains of minerals can be seen by the naked eye. Many of the original minerals have been altered into flakes. Because it has been squeezed harder than slate it is often found folded and crumpled. Schists are usually named by the main mineral from which they are formed. Bitotite mica schist, hornblende schist, garnet mica schist, and talc schist are some examples of this.


Gneiss is a high grade metamorphic rock. This means that gneiss has been subjected to more heat and pressure than schist. Gneiss is coarser than schist and has distinct banding. This banding has alternating layers that are composed of different minerals. The minerals that compose gneiss are the same as granite. Feldspar is the most important mineral that makes up gneiss along with mica and quartz. Gneiss can be formed from a sedimentary rock such as sandstone or shale, or it can be formed from the metamorphism of the igneouse rock grantite. Gneiss can be used by man as paving and building stone.



Quartzite is composed of sandstone that has been metamorphosed. Quartzite is much harder than the parent rock, sandstone. It forms from sandstone that has come into contact with deeply buried magmas. Quartzite looks similar to its parent rock. The best way to tell quartzite from sandstone is to break the rocks. Sandstone will shatter into many individual grains of sand while quartzite will break across the grains.



Organic sedimentary rocks form from the build up and decay of plant and animal material. This usually forms in swamp regions in which there is an abundant supply of growing vegetation and low amounts of oxygen. The vegetation builds so quickly that new layers of vegetation bury the dead and decaying material very quickly. The bacteria that decay the vegetation need oxygen to survive. Because these decaying layers are buried so fast the bacteria use up what oxygen there is available and can not finish the decomposition of the vegetation. The overlaying layers become so heavy that they squeeze out the water and other compounds that aid in decay.

This compressed vegetation forms coal. The longer and deeper that coal is buried makes it of higher quality. Peat is the first stage of coal formation. Lignite is the next grade of coal followed by bituminous and the highest grade, anthracite.

Anthracite is actually a metamorphic rock. It forms during mountain building when compaction and friction are extremely high. This form of coal burns very hot and almost smokeless. It is used in the production of high grade steel.