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What is Quartzite? - Properties, Uses & Facts

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  • 0:01 What Is Quartzite?
  • 1:12 Formation of Quartzite
  • 2:31 Uses of Quartzite
  • 3:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

Learn about quartzite, a hard, light colored metamorphic rock that forms when quartz sandstones undergo metamorphism. It has many uses, including building materials and industrial chemical applications.

What Is Quartzite?

Quartzite is a rock with an identity crisis. Particularly when it is used as a building material, quartzite is often mistaken for marble or light-colored granite. The recent development of synthetic quartz countertops has added additional confusion to the situation. It's not easy being a rock with an identity problem, especially when technically speaking, it isn't that hard to classify.

By definition, quartzite is a light-colored, hard metamorphic rock, which forms from the metamorphism of quartz sandstone. When a rock - in this case quartz sandstone - is exposed to changing temperature and pressure conditions, it undergoes metamorphism and becomes a metamorphic rock. Any type of rock (igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary) can become a metamorphic rock if the conditions are right.

Because quartz sandstone can come in a variety of lighter colors depending on its mineral content, quartzite can also come in a range of colors. Its color variations have led it to be a popular countertop material, and its durability makes it an excellent choice as a building or construction material. Quartzite can be found all over the world, but particularly in currently or formerly tectonically active regions where the proper metamorphic conditions exist for its formation.

Formation of Quartzite

Because it is a metamorphic rock, quartzite forms under metamorphic conditions. It often forms along plate boundaries where the motion of Earth's tectonic plates creates the temperature and pressure conditions needed for metamorphism to occur. It is considered to be a non-foliated metamorphic rock, meaning it does not contain any clear layering of its minerals as foliated metamorphic rocks, like gneiss or schist, do. Instead, it is irregular in its shape and can appear to be almost blob-like at times. It does not form foliation because it does not undergo any shearing, or sideways stresses when it is undergoing metamorphism.

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