The microstructures, mineralogy and chemistry of representative samples collected from the cores of the San Andreas Fault drill hole (SAFOD) and the Taiwan Chelungpu-Fault Drilling project (TCDP) have been studied using optical microscopy, TEM, SEM, XRD and XRF analyses. SAFOD samples provide a transect across undeformed host rock, the fault damage zone and currently active deforming zones of the San Andreas Fault. TCDP samples are retrieved from the principal slip zone (PSZ) and from the surrounding damage zone of the Chelungpu Fault. Substantial differences exist in the clay mineralogy of SAFOD and TCDP fault gouge samples. Amorphous material has been observed in SAFOD as well as TCDP samples. In line with previous publications, we propose that melt, observed in TCDP black gouge samples, was produced by seismic slip (melt origin) whereas amorphous material in SAFOD samples was formed by comminution of grains (crush origin) rather than by melting. Dauphiné twins in quartz grains of SAFOD and TCDP samples may indicate high seismic stress. The differences in the crystallographic preferred orientation of calcite between SAFOD and TCDP samples are significant. Microstructures resulting from dissolution-precipitation processes were observed in both faults but are more frequently found in SAFOD samples than in TCDP fault rocks. As already described for many other fault zones clay-gouge fabrics are quite weak in SAFOD and TCDP samples. Clay-clast aggregates (CCAs), proposed to indicate frictional heating and thermal pressurization, occur in material taken from the PSZ of the Chelungpu Fault, as well as within and outside of the SAFOD deforming zones, indicating that these microstructures were formed over a wide range of slip rates. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.