The schists constitute a group of medium-grade metamorphic rocks, chiefly notable for the preponderance of lamellar minerals such as micas, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite, and others. Quartz often occurs in drawn-out grains to such an extent that a particular form called quartz schist is produced. By definition, schist contains more than 50% platy and elongated minerals, often finely interleaved with quartz and feldspar. Schist is often garnetiferous.

The individual mineral grains in schist, drawn out into flaky scales by heat and pressure, can be seen by the naked eye. Schist is characteristically foliated, meaning the individual mineral grains split off easily into flakes or slabs. The word schist is derived from the Greek word σχίζειν meaning "to split", which is a reference to the ease with which schists can be split along the plane in which the platy minerals lie.

Most schists have been derived from clays and muds which have passed through a series of metamorphic processes involving the production of shales, slates and phyllites as intermediate steps. Certain schists have been derived from fine-grained igneous rocks such as basalts and tuffs. Most schists are mica schists, but graphite and chlorite schists are also common.

Thin section of Garnet-Mica-Schist
View of cut Garnet-Mica-Schist

Schists are named for their prominent or perhaps unusual mineral constituents, such as garnet schist, tourmaline schist, glaucophane schist, etc.

Schists are frequently used as dimension stone. Dimension stone is stone that has been selected and fabricated to specific shapes or sizes.


Historical mining terminology

Before the mid 18th century, the terms slate, shale and schist were not sharply differentiated.[1] In the context of underground coal mining, shale was frequently referred to as slate well into the 20th century.[2]


During metamorphism, rocks which were originally sedimentary or igneous are converted into schists and gneisses. If the composition of the rocks was originally similar, they may be very difficult to distinguish from one another if the metamorphism has been great. A quartz-porphyry, for example, and a fine grained feldspathic sandstone, may both be converted into a grey or pink mica-schist. Usually, however, it is possible to distinguish between sedimentary and igneous schists and gneisses. If the whole district, for example, occupied by these rocks have traces of bedding, clastic structure, or unconformability then it may be a sign that the original rock was sedimentary. In other cases intrusive junctions, chilled edges, contact alteration or porphyritic structure may prove that in its original condition a metamorphic gneiss was an igneous rock. The last appeal is often to the chemistry, for there are certain rock types which occur only as sediments, while others are found only among igneous masses, and however advanced the metamorphism may be, it rarely modifies the chemical composition of the mass very greatly. Such rocks, for example, as limestones, dolomites, quartzites and aluminous shales have very definite chemical characters which distinguish them even when completely recrystallized.

Manhattan schist, from Southeastern New York
Chlorite schist forms from shale or mudstone.

The schists are classified principally according to the minerals they consist of and on their chemical composition. For example, many metamorphic limestones, marbles, and calc-schists, with crystalline dolomites, contain silicate minerals such as mica, tremolite, diopside, scapolite, quartz and feldspar. They are derived from calcareous sediments of different degrees of purity. Another group is rich in quartz (quartzites, quartz schists and quartzose gneisses), with variable amounts of white and black mica, garnet, feldspar, zoisite and hornblende. These were once sandstones and arenaceous rocks. The graphitic schists may readily be believed to represent sediments once containing coal or plant remains; there are also schistose ironstones (hematite-schists), but metamorphic beds of salt or gypsum are exceedingly uncommon. Among schists of igneous origin there are the silky calc-schists, the foliated serpentines (once ultramafic masses rich in olivine), and the white mica-schists, porphyroids and banded halleflintas, which have been derived from rhyolites, quartz-porphyries and felsic tuffs. The majority of mica-schists, however, are altered claystones and shales, and pass into the normal sedimentary rocks through various types of phyllite and mica-slates. They are among the most common metamorphic rocks; some of them are graphitic and others calcareous. The diversity in appearance and composition is very great, but they form a well-defined group not difficult to recognize, from the abundance of black and white micas and their thin, foliated, schistose character. A subgroup is the andalusite, staurolite, kyanite and sillimanite-schists which usually make their appearance in the vicinity of gneissose granites, and have presumably been affected by contact metamorphism.[3]

Engineering considerations

In geotechnical engineering a schistosity plane often forms a discontinuity that may have a large influence on the mechanical behavior (strength, deformation, etc.) of rock masses in, for example, tunnel, foundation, or slope construction.

See also


  1. ^ R. W. Raymond, Slate, A Glossary of Mining and Metallurigical Terms, American Institute of Mining Engineers, 1881; page 78.
  2. ^ Albert H. Fay, Slate, A Glossary of the Mining and Mineral Industry, United States Bureau of Mines, 1920; page 622.
  3. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Petrology". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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  • Schist — (sh[i^]st), n. [Gr. ? divided, divisible, fr. ? to divide: cf. F. schiste. See {Schism}.] (Geol.) Any crystalline rock having a foliated structure (see {Foliation}) and hence admitting of ready division into slabs or slates. The common kinds are… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • schist — schist, schisturi, s.n. (înv.) 1. stâncă în straturi subţiri de ardezie. 2. ulei mineral extras din şişturile (şist) bituminoase, folosit la iluminat. Trimis de blaurb, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DAR …   Dicționar Român

  • schist — [ʃıst] n [U] [Date: 1700 1800; : French; Origin: schiste, from Latin schistos (lapis) stone that can be split , from Greek, from schizein; SCHISM] a type of rock that naturally breaks apart into thin flat pieces …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • schist — (n.) 1795 (earlier schistus, c.1600), from Fr. schiste, from L. schistos lapis stone that splits easily (Pliny), from Gk. skhistos divided, separated, from skhizein to split (see SHED (Cf. shed) (v.)). The rock splits easily in layers. Liddell… …   Etymology dictionary

  • schist — a term in geology for a type of layered rock, is pronounced shist …   Modern English usage

  • schist — [shist] n. [Fr schiste < L schistos (lapis), split (stone) < Gr schistos, easily cleft < schizein, to cleave: see SCHIZO ] any of a group of metamorphic rocks containing parallel layers of flaky minerals, as mica or talc, and splitting… …   English World dictionary

  • schist — an·a·schist·ic; schist; schist·oid; schist·ose; schist·ous; …   English syllables

  • schist — /shist/, n. any of a class of crystalline metamorphic rocks whose constituent mineral grains have a more or less parallel or foliated arrangement. [1775 85; < NL schistus, L (lapis) schistos < Gk schistós divided, curdled, divisible, deriv. of… …   Universalium

  • schist —   n. foliated metamorphic crystalline rock.    ♦ schistaceous, a. slate coloured.    ♦ schistic,    ♦ schistose, a.    ♦ schistoid, a. like schist.    ♦ schistosis, n. fibrosis of lungs from inhaling slate dust …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • schist — skalūnas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Į plonas plokšteles skylanti nuosėdinė metamorfinė uoliena. atitikmenys: angl. schist; shale rus. сланец …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

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