Siltstone is a type of sedimentary rock composed of small, grain-sized particles, or silt. Different minerals contribute to the rock’s makeup and appearance. Over time, a large portion of siltstones either become part of soil, morph into another type of rock, or are harvested for human use.
Several different rock types exist, and siltstone’s classification falls under the category of sedimentary rock. These types of rock are unique for their layered structure, as they are made from materials built up and compacted over thousands of years. Most siltstones are derived from minerals being carried into the spaces between particles of silt by water. When natural forces compacted these substances together, the solid rock results.
Stratification may be weathered over thousands of years, making the sedimentary layers less noticeable to the naked eye. These layers are composed of various material and minerals, including silica, iron oxides, calcite, chlorite, quartz, feldspar, alumina, and potash. Such minerals give the rock a dark color, usually black, sandy brown, or gray. Although it is located across the globe, siltstone typically resides in forested or tropical areas.
Silt refers to material particles between the size of large sand particles and small clay particles. As such, siltstone particles measure roughly 0.00015 to 0.00246 inches (about 0.00039 to .00625 cm) in diameter. In the stone, the silt cannot be seen as individual particles, but the separate particles can be felt. This composition gives the rock a crumbled, gritty, fragile texture.
When siltstone encounters high pressure such as heat, they can metamorphose into different varieties of rock, namely schist and gneiss. These metamorphic rocks are notable for their streaks of crystallized minerals. Once siltstone has been altered in this manner, it loses all of its original structure.
Comparisons between siltones and two other types of rock — sandstone and shale — are abundant, and some even mistake the rocks for each other. A few key differences separate the three, however. In contrast to sandstones, siltstones contain less clay in their composition and they also have tinier pores. As for the alteration from shale, siltstones usually do not have the lamination or fissility of the former rock.
The primary usefulness of siltstone in nature lies in its contribution to soil composition as the rock weathers and erodes during water runoff. This erosion is called rock flour. Humans also harness siltstone for some commercial endeavors. The rock is highly sought after in some regions of the world as a building material for construction activity due to its attractive look. Some household items such as tiles can also be created from siltstones, as can stone dust for protection in mines or other explosive areas. Even the artistic world has found a place for this sedimentary rock, as sculptors often begin their masterpieces with siltstone.