Hein, James R. Branch of Pacific Marine Geology, U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California.
Last reviewed:March 2021
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A hard, dense sedimentary rock composed of fine-grained silica (SiO2), most commonly quartz. Chert is characterized by a semivitreous to dull luster and a splintery to conchoidal fracture, and is most commonly gray, black, reddish brown, or green (Fig. 1). Chert is also used as a field term to describe silica-rich rocks that may be impure; common impurities include carbonates, iron and manganese oxides, and clay minerals. When impurities change the texture of the rock to the extent that it is less dense and hard than chert, and has the appearance of unglazed porcelain, the rock is then called porcellanite or siliceous shale. The term flint is synonymous with chert, but its use has become restricted to archeological artifacts and to nodular chert that occurs in chalk. The term chert, however, is preferred for the nodular deposits. Jasper refers to red or yellow quartz chert associated with iron ore or containing iron oxide. Novaculite is a white chert of great purity and uniform grain size and is composed chiefly of quartz; the term is mostly restricted to descriptions of Paleozoic cherts in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Black chert is enriched in either manganese oxide or organic matter. Chert synonyms that have become obsolete include silexite, petrosilex, phthanite, and hornstone. See also: Jasper
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