Gneiss is a high-grade metamorphic rock characterized by its distinct banding, which results from the segregation of its mineral components into light and dark layers. Belonging to the metamorphic rock class, gneiss forms part of the foliated subclass. This banded appearance not only makes gneiss visually striking but also highlights the varying mineral compositions within the rock.

Mineral Makeup

The mineral makeup of gneiss is variable, depending on the protolith or parent rock and the metamorphic conditions it has experienced. Common minerals found in gneiss include quartz, feldspar, biotite, and muscovite. Other accessory minerals, such as garnet, sillimanite, or hornblende, may also be present, depending on the specific type of gneiss.


Gneiss forms through the metamorphism of various parent rocks, including igneous rocks like granite and sedimentary rocks like shale, under high-grade metamorphic conditions. During the metamorphic process, heat and pressure cause the minerals in the parent rock to recrystallize and rearrange themselves into distinct bands, resulting in the characteristic banded appearance of gneiss.


Gneiss can be found in many areas worldwide, particularly in regions that have experienced significant metamorphism and mountain-building events. Notable occurrences of gneiss include the Canadian Shield, the Scandinavian Caledonides, the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, the European Alps, and the Himalayas in Asia.


Gneiss is believed to possess metaphysical properties related to balance, clarity, and the integration of polarities. Its banded appearance symbolizes the harmony of opposites, promoting the unification of seemingly contradictory aspects of oneself. Gneiss is also thought to enhance mental clarity and focus, helping individuals access their inner wisdom and navigate life’s challenges with greater ease.

ClassMetamorphic (Foliated) 
Mineral MakeupVariable, commonly includes quartz, feldspar, biotite, and muscovite
LusterVitreous to pearly
Hardness (Mohs)6-7
StreakWhite or colorless
ColorVariable, often light and dark bands of gray, white, or pink
CleavagePoor to none
Specific Gravity2.6 to 2.9