Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock that belongs to the clastic category. It forms from the compaction of silt and clay-sized mineral particles, resulting in a layered or laminated appearance. Shale is typically gray, brown, or black in color, although variations can occur depending on the specific mineral content. Its thin layers can easily split or break along bedding planes, making it a relatively soft and brittle rock.

Mineral Makeup

The mineral composition of shale predominantly consists of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, such as quartz and feldspar. The presence of organic material and various other minerals, such as calcite, dolomite, and pyrite, can also contribute to shale’s unique characteristics, including color and texture.


Shale forms in calm, depositional environments, such as lakes, river floodplains, and deep ocean basins, where fine-grained sediments can accumulate over time. As layers of silt and clay build up, the pressure from the overlying material compacts the particles, and chemical processes help to cement the grains together, forming shale.


Shale is one of the most abundant sedimentary rocks on Earth and can be found worldwide. Notable examples include the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, which is famous for its well-preserved fossils, and the Marcellus Shale in the northeastern United States, which is a significant source of natural gas. Shale often occurs alongside other sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone and limestone, in sequences that record the geological history of an area.


Shale is believed to possess metaphysical properties that encourage balance, stability, and grounding. It is thought to help individuals find their center and maintain focus during times of change or uncertainty. Shale is also said to promote a sense of calmness and tranquility, allowing for the release of negative emotions and the cultivation of inner strength and resilience.

ClassSedimentary (Clastic)
Mineral MakeupPrimarily clay minerals, with possible quartz, feldspar, calcite, dolomite, and pyrite 
LusterDull or earthy 
Hardness (Mohs)3-4
StreakWhite or colorless
ColorGray, brown, or black, with possible color variations 
CleavagePerfect along bedding planes
Specific Gravity2.4 to 2.8