An ornamental green mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate. Serpentine can range in color from yellow, green, gray, brown, or black and often contains crystals of green olivine and black veins or patches. Serpentine has been gathered or mined since Paleolithic times. It occurs in several varieties. Antigorite is a soft, coarse-grain form that has a dull, waxy color. Antigorite was used in Egypt in the Pharaonic period for small vessels, amulets, and scarabs. A second variety, chrysotile, is harder with a silky, fibrous structure. Chrysotile, found in Cyprus and Afghanistan, was used for beads, amulets, seals, and inlays and was often misnamed as jade (Ogden 1982). Another variety, lizardite, can be a mottlish yellow with dark gray or black patches. One type of serpentine, called bowenite, was a favorite of Chinese carvers. Serpentine is mined in Egypt, England (Cornwall), China, Canada (Quebec), Italy, Norway, Russia, South Africa, and the United States (Deer Isle, California). It is used as a building stone and as a source of asbestos.
Synonyms and Related Terms
serpentina (Esp., Port.); serpentine (Fr.); Serpentin (Deut.); serpentijn (Ned.); antigorite; chrysotile; black jasper; Genoa green; Alpine green; Tinos green; verde antique; green marble; marmolite; picrolite; asbestos; Deer Isle; bowenite; lizardite
Low birefringence. May be translucent to opaque.
Monoclinic, crystals rare, usually massive (antigorite) or fibrous (chrysotile).
Fracture =conchoidal (antigorite) or uneven (chrysotile). Streak = white.
|Mohs Hardness||2 - 6|
Hazards and Safety
Noncombustible. The fibers from chrysotile (asbestos) are highly toxic by inhalation.
° J. Ogden, Jewelry of the Ancient World, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 1982.° Mineralogy Database: Clinochrysotile
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