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Reading: Metamorphic Rocks


A metamorphic rock used to be some other type of rock, but it was changed inside the Earth to become a new type of rock. The word metamorphism comes from ancient Greek words for “change” (meta) and “form” (morph). The type of rock that a metamorphic rock used to be, prior to metamorphism, is called the protolith. During metamorphism the mineral content and texture of the protolith are changed due to changes in the physical and chemical environment of the rock. Metamorphism can be caused by burial, tectonic stress, heating by magma, or alteration by fluids. At advanced stages of metamorphism, it is common for a metamorphic rock to develop such a different set of minerals and such a thoroughly changed texture that it is difficult to recognize what the protolith was.

A rock undergoing metamorphism remains a solid rock during the process. Rocks do not melt during most conditions of metamorphism. At the highest grade of metamorphism, rocks begin to partially melt, at which point the boundary of metamorphic conditions is surpassed and the igneous part of the rock cycle is entered.

Even though rocks remain solid during metamorphism, fluid is generally present in the microscopic spaces between the minerals. This fluid phase may play a major role in the chemical reactions that are an important part of how metamorphism occurs. The fluid usually consists largely of water.

Metamorphic rocks provide a record of the processes that occurred inside Earth as the rock was subjected to changing physical and chemical conditions. This gives the geologist literally “inside information” on what occurs within the Earth during such processes as the formation of new mountain ranges, the collision of continents, the subduction of oceanic plates, and the circulation of sea water into hot oceanic crust. Metamorphic rocks are like probes that have gone down into the Earth and come back, bringing an record of the conditions they encountered on their journey in the depths of the Earth.


The reason rocks undergo metamorphism is that the minerals in a rock are only stable under a limited range of pressure, temperature, and chemical conditions. When rocks are subjected to large enough changes in these factors, the minerals will undergo chemical reactions that result in their replacement by new minerals, minerals that are stable in the new conditions.

Chemical Composition of the Protolith

The type of rock undergoes metamorphism is a major factor in determing what type of metamorphic rock it becomes. In short the identify of the protolith plays a big role the identity of the metamorphic rock. A fluid phase may introduce or remove chemical substances into or out of the rock during metamorphism, but in most metamorphic rock, most of the atoms in the protolith are be present in the metamorphic rock after metamorphism; the atoms will likely be rearranged into new mineral forms within the rock. Therefore, not only does the protolith determine the initial chemistry of the metamorphic rock, most metamorphic rocks do not change their bulk (overall) chemical compositions very much during metamorphism. The fact that most metamorphic rocks retain most of their original atoms means that even if the rock was so thoroughly metamorphosed that it no longer looks at all like the protolith, the rock can be analyzed in terms of its bulk chemical composition to determine what type of rock the protolith was.

If the protolith is an arenite, made mostly of the mineral quartz (SiO2), metamorphism cannot turn the rock into a marble, which is made of the mineral calcite (CaCO3). In fact, as a result of metamorphism, a pure quartz arenite will become quartzite. It is still made of quartz, but the quartz has recrystallized during metamorphism, filling in most of the pore space of the arenite with new quartz growth and becoming a denser, harder rock. The reason pure arenite becomes quartzite is that the mineral quartz is stable over a wide range of pressures and temperatures. Under most metamorphic conditions quartz will simply recrystallize, overgrow the existing quartz grains with more quartz, and reorient its quartz crystals to become a new rock type made of quartz.

Many protoliths have chemical compositions consisting of more than three chemical elements, and most protoliths are made of minerals that do not remain stable in the conditions encountered during metamorphism. Such protoliths undergo chemical reactions during metamorphism that replace the protolith minerals with new metamorphic minerals, made of the atoms from the protolith minerals rearranged into new mineral structures.


Temperature is another major factor of metamorphism. There are two ways to think about how the temperature of a rock can be increased as a result of geologic processes.

If rocks are buried within the Earth, the deeper they go, the higher the temperatures they experience. This is because temperature inside the Earth increases along what is called the geothermal gradient, or geotherm for short. Therefore, if rocks are simply buried deep enough enough sediment, they will experience temperatures high enough to cause metamorphism. This temperature is about 200ºC (approximately 400ºF).

Tectonic processes are another way rocks can be moved deeper along the geotherm. Faulting and folding the rocks of the crust, can move rocks to much greater depth than simple burial can.

Yet another way a rock in the Earth’s crust can have its temperature greatly increased is by the intrusion of magma nearby. Magma intrusion subjects nearby rock to higher temperature with no increase in depth or pressure.

The upper limit of metamorphism, beyond which igneous conditions occur, is the temperature and pressure at which partial melting of the rocks begins. This limit varies greatly, depending on the pressure, the chemical composition of the rocks, and the presence of a fluid phase. With water present in the fluid, some types of rock begin melting, if the pressure is high enough, at temperatures of about 600 ºC (approximately 1100 ºF) at the low end. Other types of rock, if there is no fluid in the rock to lower the melting temperature, will remain solid and continue undergoing metamorphism to over 1000 ºC (approximately 1800 ºF).


Pressure is a measure of the stress, the physical force, being applied to the surface of a material. It is defined as the force per unit area acting on the surface, in a direction perpendicular to the surface.

Lithostatic pressure is the pressure exerted on a rock by all the surrounding rock. The source of the pressure is the weight of all the rocks above. Lithostatic pressure increases as depth within the Earth increases and is a uniform stress—the pressure applies equally in all directions on the rock.

If pressure does not apply equally in all directions, differential stress occurs. There are two types of differential stress.

Normal stress compresses (pushes together) rock in one direction, the direction of maximum stress. At the same time, in a perpendicular direction, the rock undergoes tension (stretching), in the direction of minimum stress.

Shear stress pushes one side of the rock in a direction parallel to the side, while at the same time, the other side of the rock is being pushed in the opposite direction.

Differential stress has a major influence on the the appearance of a metamorphic rock. Differential stress can flatten pre-existing grains in the rock, as shown in the diagram below.

Metamorphic minerals that grow under differential stress will have a preferred orientation if the minerals have atomic structures that tend to make them form either flat or elongate crystals. This will be especially apparent for micas or other sheet silicates that grow during metamorphism, such as biotite, muscovite, chlorite, talc, or serpentine. If any of these flat minerals are growing under normal stress, they will grow with their sheets oriented perpendicular to the direction of maximum compression. This results in a rock that can be easily broken along the parallel mineral sheets. Such a rock is said to be foliated, or to have foliation.


Any open space between the mineral grains in a rock, however microscopic, may contain a fluid phase. Most commonly, if there is a fluid phase in a rock during metamorphism, it will be a hydrous fluid, consisting of water and things dissolved in the water. Less commonly, it may be a carbon dioxide fluid or some other fluid. The presence of a fluid phase is a major factor during metamorphism because it helps determine which metamorphic reactions will occur and how fast they will occur. The fluid phase can also influence the rate at which mineral crystals deform or change shape. Most of this influence is due to the dissolved ions that pass in and out of the fluid phase. If during metamorphism enough ions are introduced to or removed from the rock via the fluid to change the bulk chemical composition of the rock, the rock is said to have undergone metasomatism. However, most metamorphic rocks do not undergo sufficient change in their bulk chemistry to be considered metasomatic rocks.


Most metamorphism of rocks takes place slowly inside the Earth. Regional metamorphism takes place on a timescale of millions of years. Metamorphism usually involves slow changes to rocks in the solid state, as atoms or ions diffuse out of unstable minerals that are breaking down in the given pressure and temperature conditions and migrate into new minerals that are stable in those conditions. This type of chemical reaction takes a long time.


Metamorphic grade refers to the general temperature and pressure conditions that prevailed during metamorphism. As the pressure and temperature increase, rocks undergo metamorphism at higher metamorphic grade. Rocks changing from one type of metamorphic rock to another as they encounter higher grades of metamorphism are said to be undergoing prograde metamorphism.

Low-grade metamorphism takes place at approximately 200–320 ºC and relatively low pressure. This is not far beyond the conditions in which sediments get lithified into sedimentary rocks, and it is common for a low-grade metamorphic rock to look somewhat like its protolith. Low grade metamorphic rocks tend to characterized by an abundance of hydrous minerals, minerals that contain water within their crystal structure. Examples of low grade hydrous minerals include clay, serpentine, and chlorite. Under low grade metamorphism many of the metamorphic minerals will not grow large enough to be seen without a microscope.

Medium-grade metamorphism takes place at approximately at 320–450 ºC and at moderate pressures. Low grade hydrous minerals are replaced by micas such as biotite and muscovite, and non-hydrous minerals such as garnet may grow. Garnet is an example of a mineral which may form porphyroblasts, metamorphic mineral grains that are larger in size and more equant in shape (about the same diameter in all directions), thus standing out among the smaller, flatter, or more elongate minerals.

High-grade metamorphism takes place at temperatures above about 450 ºC. Micas tend to break down. New minerals such as hornblende will form, which is stable at higher temperatures. However, as metamorphic grade increases to even higher grade, all hydrous minerals, which includes hornblende, may break down and be replaced by other, higher-temperature, non-hydrous minerals such as pyroxene.

During high-grade metamorphism the minerals tend to grow larger. Some varieties of valuable gemstones, such as rubies, emeralds, and jade, come from high grade metamorphic rocks. At the highest metamorphic grade, if the temperature gets high enough, the rock will start to melt, entering the next stage of the rock cycle, the igneous stage. The temperature at which melting begins ranges from about 600 ºC to over 1000 ºC depending on the rock and fluids in the rock.


Index minerals, which are indicators of metamorphic grade. In a given rock type, which starts with a particular chemical composition, lower-grade index minerals are replaced by higher-grade index minerals in a sequence of chemical reactions that proceeds as the rock undergoes prograde metamorphism. For example, in rocks made of metamorphosed shale, metamorphism may prograde through the following index minerals:

  • chlorite characterizes the lowest regional metamorphic grade
  • biotite replaces chlorite at the next metamorphic grade, which could be considered medium-low grade
  • garnet appears at the next metamorphic grade, medium grade
  • staurolite marks the next metamorphic grade, which is medium-high grade
  • sillimanite is a characteristic mineral of high grade metamorphic rocks

Index minerals are used by geologists to map metamorphic grade in regions of metamorphic rock. A geologist maps and collects rock samples across the region and marks the geologic map with the location of each rock sample and the type of index mineral it contains. By drawing lines around the areas where each type of index mineral occurs, the geologist delineates the zones of different metamorphic grades in the region. The lines are known as isograds.


Regional Metamorphism

Regional metamorphism occurs where large areas of rock are subjected to large amounts of differential stress for long intervals of time, conditions typically associated with mountain building. Mountain building occurs at subduction zones and at continental collision zones where two plates each bearing continental crust, converge upon each other.

Most foliated metamorphic rocks—slate, phyllite, schist, and gneiss—are formed during regional metamorphism. As the rocks become heated at depth in the Earth during regional metamorphism they become ductile, which means they are relatively soft even though they are still solid. The folding and deformation of the rock while it is ductile may greatly distort the original shapes and orientations of the rock, producing folded layers and mineral veins that have highly deformed or even convoluted shapes. The diagram below shows folds forming during an early stage of regional metamorphism, along with development of foliation, in response to normal stress.

The photograph below shows high-grade metamorphic rock that has undergone several stages of foliation development and folding during regional metamorphism, and may even have reached such a high temperature that it began to melt.

Contact Metamorphism

Contact metamorphism occurs to solid rock next to an igneous intrusion and is caused by the heat from the nearby body of magma. Because contact metamorphism is not caused by changes in pressure or by differential stress, contact metamorphic rocks do not become foliated. Where intrusions of magma occur at shallow levels of the crust, the zone of contact metamorphism around the intrusion is relatively narrow, sometimes only a few m (a few feet) thick, ranging up to contact metamorphic zones over 1000 m (over 3000 feet) across around larger intrusions that released more heat into the adjacent crust. The zone of contact metamorphism surrounding an igneous intrusion is called the metamorphic aureole. The rocks closest to the contact with the intrusion are heated to the highest temperatures, so the metamorphic grade is highest there and diminishes with increasing distance away from the contact. Because contact metamorphism occurs at shallow to moderate depths in the crust and subjects the rocks to temperatures up to the verge of igneous conditions, it is sometimes referred to as high-temperature, low-pressure metamorphism. Hornfels, which is a hard metamorphic rock formed from fine-grained clastic sedimentary rocks, is a common product of contact metamorphism.

Hydrothermal Metamorphism

Hydrothermal metamorphism is the result of extensive interaction of rock with high-temperature fluids. The difference in composition between the existing rock and the invading fluid drives the chemical reactions. The hydrothermal fluid may originate from a magma that intruded nearby and caused fluid to circulate in the nearby crust, from circulating hot groundwater, or from ocean water. If the fluid introduces substantal amounts of ions into the rock and removes substantial amounts of ions from it, the fluid has metasomatized the rock—changed its chemical composition.

Ocean water that penetrates hot, cracked oceanic crust and circulates as hydrothermal fluid in ocean floor basalts produces extensive hydrothermal metamorphism adjacent to mid-ocean spreading ridges and other ocean-floor volcanic zones. Much of the basalt subjected to this type of metamorphism turns into a type of metamorphic rock known as greenschist. Greenschist contains a set of minerals, some of them green, which may include chlorite, epidote, talc, Na-plagioclase, or actinolite. The fluids eventually escape through vents in the ocean floor known as black smokers, producing thick deposits of minerals on the ocean floor around the vents.

Burial Metamorphism

Burial metamorphism occurs to rocks buried beneath sediments to depths that exceed the conditions in which sedimentary rocks form. Because rocks undergoing burial metamorphism encounter the uniform stress of lithostatic pressure, not differential pressure, they do not develop foliation. Burial metamorphism is the lowest grade of metamorphism. The main type of mineral that usually grows during burial metamorphism is zeolite, a group of low-density silicate minerals. It usually requires a strong microscope see the small grains of zeolite minerals that form during burial metamorphism.

Dynamic Metamorphism

Dynamic metamorphism is caused mainly by high shear stress along fault zones or shear zones in the crust. The minerals of the protolith may be pulverized and crushed by the high rate of shear strain that occurs in these zones. Rocks metamorphosed in these zones usually exhibit a combination of fractured, partly disintegrated, partly recrystallized versions of the original minerals, along with new mineral growth that occured during the metamorphism. Because fault zones and shear zones are highly localized, rocks that have undergone dynamic metamorphism are not a widespread type of metamorphic rock; they are much less abundant, than regional or contact metamorphic rocks.

Subduction Zone Metamorphism

During subduction, a tectonic plate, consisting of oceanic crust and lithospheric mantle, is recycled back into the deeper mantle. In most subduction zones the subducting plate is relatively cold compared with the high temperature it had when first formed at a mid-ocean spreading ridge. Subduction takes the rocks to great depth in the Earth relatively quickly. This produces a characteristic type of metamorphism, sometimes called high-pressure, low-temperature (high-P, low-T) metamorphism, which only occurs deep in a subduction zone. In oceanic basalts that are part of a subducting plate, the high-P, low-T conditions create a distinctive set of metamorphic minerals including a type of amphibole, called glaucophane, that has a blue color. Blueschist is the name given to this type of metamorphic rock. Blueschist is generally interpreted as having been produced within a subduction zone, even if the plate boundaries have subsequently shifted and that location is no longer at a subduction zone.


Much as the minerals and textures of sedimentary rocks can be used as windows to see into the environment in which the sediments were deposited on the Earth’s surface, the minerals and textures of metamorphic rocks provide windows through which we view the conditions of pressure, temperature, fluids, and stress that occurred inside the Earth during metamorphism. The pressure and temperature conditions under which specific types of metamorphic rocks form has been determined by a combination labratory experiments, physics-based theoretical calculations, along with evidence in the textures of the rocks and their field relations as recorded on geologic maps. The knowledge of temperatures and pressures at which particular types of metamorphic rocks form led to the concept of metamorphic facies. Each metamorphic facies is represented by a specific type of metamorphic rock that forms under a specific pressure and temperature conditions.

Even though the name of the each metamorphic facies is taken from a type of rock that forms under those conditions, that is not the only type of rock that will form in those conditions. For example, if the protolith is basalt, it will turn into greenschist under greenschist facies conditions, and that is what facies is named for. However, if the protolith is shale, a muscovite-biotite schist, which is not green, will form instead. If it can be determined that a muscovite-biotite schist formed at around 350ºC temperature and 400 MPa pressure, it can be stated that the rock formed in the greenschist facies, even though the rock is not itself a greenschist.

The diagram below shows metamorphic facies in terms of pressure and temperature condiditons inside the Earth. Earth’s surface conditions are near the top left corner of the graph at about 15ºC which is the average temperature at Earth’s surface and 0.1 MPa (megapascals), which is about the average atmospheric pressure on the Earth’s surface. Just as atmospheric pressure comes from the weight of all the air above a point on the Earth’s surface, pressure inside the Earth comes from the weight of all the rock above a given depth. Rocks are much denser than air and MPa is the unit most commonly uses to express pressures inside the Earth. One MPa equals nearly 10 atmospheres. A pressure of 1000 MPa corresponds to a depth of about 35 km inside the Earth. Although pressure inside the Earth is determined by the depth, temperature depends on more than depth. Temperature depends on the heat flow, which varies from location to location. The way temperature changes with depth inside the Earth is called the geothermal gradient, geotherm for short. In the diagram below, three different geotherms are marked with dashed lines. The three geotherms represent different geological settings in the Earth.

High-pressure, low-temperature geotherms occurs in subduction zones. As the diagram shows, rocks undergoing prograde metamorphism in subduction zones will be subjected to zeolite, blueschist, and ultimately eclogite facies conditions.

High-temperature, low-pressure geotherms occur in the vicinity of igneous intrusions in the shallow crust, underlying a volcanically active area. Rocks that have their pressure and temperature conditions increased along such a geotherm will metamorphose in the hornfels facies and, if it gets hot enough, in the granulite facies.

Blueschist facies and hornfels facies are associated with unusual geothermal gradients. The most common conditions in the Earth are found along geotherms between those two extremes. Most regional metamorphic rocks are formed in conditions within this range of geothermal gradients, passing through the greenschist facies to the amphibolites facies. At the maximum pressures and temperatures the rocks may encounter within the Earth in this range of geotherms, they will enter either the granulite or eclogite facies. Regionally metamorphosed rocks that contain hydrous fluids will begin to melt before they pass beyond the amphibolite facies.


The minerals in metamorphic rock are often a completely different set of minerals than in the protolith. But, because the mineral assemblage in the metamorphic rock reflects the overall chemical composition of the rock, the set of minerals found in the rock can give us a good idea of the type of protolith, even if the metamorphic rock no longer looks anything like its protolith.

The following terms are used to describe protoliths, and the types of metamorphic rocks they turn into, in terms of their general chemical compositions.

  • pelitic—pelitic rocks are high in alumina and, as protoliths, were usually shales or mudstones. Pelitic metamorphic rocks contain alumina-rich minerals such as the micas, garnet, andalusite, kyanite, silliminate, or staurolite. Pelitic metamorphic rocks formed during regional metamorphism include many varieties of slate, phyllite, schist, and gneiss.
  • mafic—mafic protoliths and the metamorphic rocks they become are high in magnesium and iron relative to silicon. Basalt is the most common mafic protolith. It can turn into mafic metamorphic rocks such as greenschist and amphibolites with chlorite, actinolite, biotite, hornblende, or plagioclase in them, depending on metamorphic grade.
  • calcareous—Calcareous rocks are calcium-rich rocks. Typically, as protoliths, calcareous rocks were either limestone or dolostone, which most commonly turn into marble as metamorphic rocks.
  • quartzofeldspathic—Protoliths such as granite, rhyolite, and arkose are rocks that consist mostly of a combination of quartz and feldspar are quartzofeldspathic. High-grade regional metamorphism of quartzofeldspathic rocks produces gneisses containing feldspar, quartz, biotite, and possibly hornblende.


Metamorphic rock fall into two categories, foliated and unfoliated. Most foliated metamorphic rocks originate from regional metamorphism. Some unfoliated metamorphic rocks, such as hornfels, originate only by contact metamorphism, but others can originate either by contact metamorphism or by regional metamorphism. Quartz and marble are prime examples of unfoliated that can be produced by either regional or contact metamorphism. Both rock types consist of metamorphic minerals that do not have flat or elongate shapes and thus cannot become layered even if they are produced under differential stress.

A geologist working with metamorphic rocks collects the rocks in the field and looks for the patterns the rocks form in outcrops as well as how those outcrops are related to other types of rock with which they are in contact. Field evidence is often required to know for sure whether rocks are products of regional metamorphism, contact metamorphism, or some other type of metamorphism. If only looking at rock samples in a laboratory, one can be sure of the type of metamorphism that produced a foliated metamorphic rock such as schist or gneiss, or a hornfels, which is unfoliated, but one cannot be sure of the type of metamorphism that produced an unfoliated marble or quartzite.

Foliated Metamorphic Rocks

Foliated metamorphic rocks are named for their style of foliation. However, a more complete name of each particular type of foliated metamorphic rock includes the main minerals that the rock comprises, such as biotite-garnet schist rather than just schist.

  • slate—slates form at low metamorphic grade by the growth of fine-grained chlorite and clay minerals. The preferred orientation of these sheet silicates causes the rock to easily break along parallel planes, giving the rock a slaty cleavage. Some slate breaks into such extensively flat sheets of rock that it is used as the base of pool tables, beneath a layer of rubber and felt. Roof tiles are also sometimes made of slate.
  • phyllite—phyllite is a low-medium grade regional metamorphic rock in which the clay minerals and chlorite have been at least partly replaced by mica mica minerals, muscovite and biotite. This gives the surfaces of phyllite a satiny luster, much brighter than the surface of a piece of slate. It is also common for the differential stresses under which phyllite forms to have produced a set of folds in the rock, making the foliation surfaces wavy or irregular, in contrast to the often perfectly flat surfaces of slaty cleavage.
  • schist—the size of mineral crystals tends to grow larger with increasing metamorphic grade. Schist is a product of medium grades of metamorphism and is characterized by visibly prominent, parallel sheets of mica or similar sheet silicates, usually either muscovite or biotite, or both. In schist, the sheets of mica are usually arranged in irregular planes rather than perfectly flat planes, giving the rock a schistose foliation (or simply schistosity). Schist often contains more than just micas among its minerals, such as quartz, feldspars, and garnet.
  • amphibolite—a poorly foliated to unfoliated mafic metamorphic rock, usually consisting largely of the common black amphibole known as hornblende, plus plagioclase, plus or minus biotite and possibly other minerals; it usually does not contain any quartz. Amphibolite forms at medium-high metamorphic grades. Amphibolite is also listed below in the section on unfoliated metamorphic rocks.
  • gneiss—like the word schist, the word gneiss is originated from the German language; it is pronounced “nice.” As metamorphic grade continue to increase, sheet silicates become unstable and dark minerals such as hornblende or pyroxene start to grow. The dark-colored minerals tend to form separate bands or stripes in the rock, giving it a gneissic foliation of dark and light streaks. Gneiss is a high-grade metamorphic rock. Many types of gneiss look somewhat like granite, except that the gneiss has dark and light stripes whereas in granite randomly oriented and distributed minerals with no stripes or layers.
  • migmatite—a combination of high-grade regional metamorphic rock – usually gneiss or schist – and granitic igneous rock. The granitic rock in migmatite probably originated from partial melting of some of the metamorphic rock, though in some migmatites the granite may have intruded the rock from deeper in the crust. In migmatite you can see metamorphic rock that has reached the limits of metamorphism and begun transitioning into the igneous stage of the rock cycle by melting to form magma.

Names of different styles of foliation come from the common rocks that exhibit such foliation:

  • slate has slaty foliation
  • phyllite has phyllitic foliation
  • schist has schistose foliation
  • gneiss has gneissic foliation (also called gneissose foliation)

Unfoliated Metamorphic Rocks

Unfoliated metamorphic rocks lack a planar (oriented) fabric, either because the minerals did not grow under differential stress, or because the minerals that grew during metamorphism are not minerals that have elongate or flat shapes. Because they lack foliation, these rocks are named entirely on the basis of their mineralogy.

  • hornfels—hornfels are very hard rocks formed by contact metamorphism of shale, siltstone, or sandstone. The heat from the nearby magma “bakes” the sedimentary rocks and recrystallizes the minerals in them into a new texture that no longer breaks easily along the original sedimentary bedding planes. Depending on the composition of the rock and the temperature reached, minerals indicative of high metamorphic grade such as pyroxene may occur in some hornfels, though many hornfels have minerals indicating medium grade metamorphism.
  • amphibolite—amphibolites are dark-colored rocks with amphibole, usually the common black amphibole known as hornblende, as their most abundant mineral, along with plagioclase and possibly other minerals, though usually no quartz. Amphibolites are poorly foliated to unfoliated and form at medium to medium-high grades of metamorphism from basalt or gabbro.
  • quartzite—quartzite is a metamorphic rock made almost entirely of quartz, for which the protolith was quartz arenite. Because quartz is stable over a wide range of pressure and temperature, little or no new minerals form in quartzite during metamorphism. Instead, the quartz grains recrystallize into a denser, harder rock than the original sandstone. If struck by a rock hammer, quartzite will commonly break right through the quartz grains, rather than around them as when quartz arenite is broken.
  • marble—marble is a metamorphic rock made up almost entirely of either calcite or dolomite, for which the protolith was either limestone or dolostone, respectively. Marbles may have bands of different colors which were deformed into convoluted folds while the rock was ductile. Such marble is often used as decorative stone in buildings. Some marble, which is considered better quality stone for carving into statues, lacks color bands.

Metamorphic Rock Classification

Foliated Metamorphic Rocks
Crystal Size Mineralogy Protolith Metamorphism Rock Name
very fine clay minerals shale low grade regional slate
fine clay minerals, biotite, muscovite shale low grade regional phyllite
medium to coarse biotite, muscovite, quartz, garnet, plagioclase shale, basalt medium grade regional schist
medium to coarse amphibole, plagioclase, biotite basalt medium grade regional amphibolite
(Note: may be unfoliated)
medium to coarse plagioclase, orthoclase, quartz, biotite, amphibole, pyroxene basalt, granite, shale high grade regional gneiss
Unfoliated Metamorphic Rocks
Crystal Size Mineralogy Protolith Metamorphism Rock Name
fine to coarse quartz sandstone regional or contact quartzite
fine to coarse calcite limestone regional or contact marble
fine pyroxene, amphibole, plagioclase shale contact hornfels

Note that not all minerals listed in the mineralogy column will be present in every rock of that type and that some rocks may have minerals not listed here.


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