Serpentine

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Serpentine is well known to the world's mineralogists and gemologists, but is much less familiar to the general public. The marbled look of this green stone makes it ideal as an ornamental material, and it has been carved into a wide array of decorative objects throughout history. Although serpentine has a similar appearance to jade, it is a different, unrelated series of minerals.

Serpentine Polished
Serpentine Classification
Common Name Serpentine
Species Rock
Serpentine Optical Properties
Transparency Semitransparent - Opaque
Dispersion Strength: None
Refractive Index 1.538-1.570 Tolerance: (+0.004/-0.070)
Birefringence 0.005- 0.012
Optic Character Uniaxial and Biaxial
Optic Sign Negative
Polariscope Reaction Aggregate (AGG)
Fluorescence SWUV: Inert to weak blue
LWUV: Inert to weak green
CCF Reaction None
Pleochroism None
Serpentine Characteristic Physical Properties
Hardness 2.5-5
Streak White
Specific Gravity 2.440-2.800 Range:0.23/-0.13 Typical:2.570
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Stones often have black inclusions of chromite or magnetite octahedra, color is usually spotty with white veining or moss-like inclusions. Stones will not take a good polish and often show scratches due to low mohs hardness.
Luster Waxy, Resinous, Greasy, Silky, Dull
Fracture Granular, Uneven
Cleavage None
Serpentine Chemistry & Crystallography
Chemical Name hydrous magnesium iron phyllosilicate
Chemical Formula (Mg,Fe,Ni)3Si2O5(OH)4
Crystal System Monoclinic
Chemistry Classification Silicate

Serpentine Colors

  • Gray Serpentine Gray
  • Yellow Serpentine Yellow
  • White Serpentine White
  • Pink Serpentine Pink
  • Orange Serpentine Orange
  • Multi-color Serpentine Multi-color
  • Brown Serpentine Brown
  • Green Serpentine Green
  • Black Serpentine Black

Alternate Names

Antigorite, Bowenite, Williamsite, Verd-Antique, Bastite, Chrysotile

Countries of Origin

Afghanistan; United States of America (the); Congo (the); Madagascar; India; Greece; New Zealand; Canada; Austria; Pakistan; Unknown; China; Russian Federation (the); Brazil; Italy; South Africa; Australia; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)

Care

Serpentine is very soft, so be mindful of scratching. Avoid sudden temperature changes, chemicals, and ultrasonic cleaners. Requires gentle handling

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Species/Variety

Lizardite

Lizardite is a common component in serpentine rocks and it is named for Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, England where it was first discovered. It is often used for decorative objects and beads for jewelry.

Lizardite Serpentine
Lizardite Classification
Common Name Lizardite
Lizardite Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.55
Toughness Poor
Stability Poor

Williamsite

Williamsite is a semi-transparent to translucent variety of antigorite, a mineral in the serpentine group. Williamsite was named in honor of 19th century American mineral collector L.W. Williams, who first discovered it. With a range of green hues, its color has a marked resemblance to two more expensive gems, jade and chrysoprase, and is used as a simulant of both. Williamsite exhibits an oily luster when polished and often contains minor inclusions of chromite and magnetite.

Williamsite Serpentine
Williamsite Classification
Common Name Williamsite
Williamsite Optical Properties
Refractive Index 1.53-1.575
Fluorescence SWUV: Inert
LWUV: Weak whitish-green
Pleochroism Unobservable
Williamsite Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.51
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Williamsite is often included with black octahedral chromite or magnetite inclusions. Stones often shows scratches and poor polish due to low mohs hardness. .
Stability Poor

Verd Antique

Verde-antique is a name applied to serpentine rock that exhibits veins of minerals, such as calcite, dolomite, and magnesite. The material is a dark green with a mottled appearance due to various mineral inclusions. Verde-antique has been a popular decorative stone for thousands of years.

Verd Antique Serpentine
Verd Antique Classification
Common Name Verd Antique
Verd Antique Optical Properties
Refractive Index 1.56-1.57
Verd Antique Characteristic Physical properties
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Verd-antique is dark green serpentinite breccia that is mottled in appearance with white calcite or dolomite veins.
Stability Poor

Chrysotile

Chrysotile, a fibrous form of serpentine, is also a major source of asbestos worldwide. Its color ranges from white to gray, yellowish brown to brown, and shades of green. Chrysotile has a fibrous, splintery fracture, no cleavage and silky luster. Chrysotile is used most commonly for industrial purposes.

Chrysotile Serpentine
Chrysotile Classification
Common Name Chrysotile
Chrysotile Optical Properties
Refractive Index 1.53-1.549
Birefringence 0.001
Pleochroism Unobservable
Chrysotile Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.5
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Chrysotile is fibrous and often mottled or veined.
Stability Poor

Bowenite

One of the most common serpentine varieties in the gem trade is bowenite, one of the hardest of the serpentine minerals. It is a massive variety of antigorite that ranges from blue-green to green and green to yellow. It is translucent to semi-translucent, and has been used in various types of jewelry, as well as in decorative and ornamental applications.

Bowenite Serpentine
Bowenite Classification
Common Name Bowenite
Bowenite Optical Properties
Refractive Index 1.53-1.575
CCF Reaction reddish if dyed
Pleochroism Unobservable
Bowenite Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.58
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Bowenite might show greenish sparkling chlorite inclusions and often shows scratches and poor polish due to low mohs hardness.
Stability Good

Antigorite

Antigorite is a hard, compact variety of serpentine occurring either in corrugated plates or fibers. Serpentine is well known to mineralogists and gemologists, but is much less familiar to the general public. Often similar to jade in appearance, it is primarily used an ornamental material and has been carved into a wide array of decorative objects throughout history. Antigorite is usually green, but may be yellowish, gray, brown or black.

Antigorite Serpentine
Antigorite Classification
Common Name Antigorite
Antigorite Optical Properties
Refractive Index 1.557-1.571
Pleochroism Unobservable
Antigorite Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.58
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Antigorite often shows scratches and poor polish due to low mohs hardness. Stones are fine grained and has a flaky structure.
Stability Poor

Ricolite

Ricolite is a banded rock containing serpentine minerals and talc. Ricolite is named for a find in Rico, New Mexico, but the material has also been found in Mexico.

Ricolite Serpentine
Ricolite Classification
Common Name Ricolite
Ricolite Optical Properties
Pleochroism Unobservable
Ricolite Characteristic Physical properties
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Bands of talc
Stability Poor

Connemara Marble

Ireland’s unofficial national gemstone, Connemara marble is a calcite marble that contains large amounts of serpentine. Green in color, its name comes from the locality in western Ireland where it is mined. Mining of this ornamental rock is one of Ireland’s oldest industries and there’s even a visitor’s center devoted to this decorative stone. The perfect stone to represent Ireland, which has long been known as the ‘Emerald Isle’, Connemara marble has been carved into a wide variety of decorative items throughout history. Known since the Stone Age, Connemara marble has also been used over the centuries as a medium of exchange.

Connemara Marble Serpentine
Connemara Marble Classification
Common Name Connemara Marble
Connemara Marble Optical Properties
Pleochroism Unobservable
Connemara Marble Characteristic Physical properties
Specific Gravity 2.50
Toughness Poor
Stability Fair
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Tim Matthews

Tim Matthews is President and Chief Executive Officer of Jewelry Television® (JTV), as well as a member of the company's Board of Directors. He oversees and leads all aspects of the company's powerful omni-digital retail platform that uniquely specializes in fine jewelry and gemstones. His passion for business and gemstones has led him to become a recognized expert in the field of gemology. He is a life member of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) and has earned Gem-A's highest degrees, the Gemmology (FGA) and Diamond (DGA) diplomas. He is also a Graduate Gemologist (GG) of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and has also completed GIA's Graduate Diplomas in Diamonds, Colored Stones and Pearls. Under his leadership, JTV has become the leader in the sourcing and selling of color gemstones and jewelry.

This page was created on June 27, 2014.

This page was last edited on October 24, 2019.