The schists form 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.
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 characteristic flaky texture of schist gives rise to the adjective “schistose”.
Most schists have in all probability 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.
Schists are named for their prominent or perhaps unusual mineral constituents, such as garnet schist, tourmaline schist, glaucophane schist, etc.
The word schist is derived from the Greek meaning “to split”, which is in reference to the ease with which schists can be split along the plane in which the platy minerals lie.