Is chrysotile a rock? Or is it a mineral? Chrysotile is a mineral, not a rock. Another name for this mineral is “white asbestos.” In fact, chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used asbestos mineral.
This guide will fill you in on everything about chrysotile, from its meanings and mineral properties to its history and healing powers.
Chrysotile is a semi-precious gemstone and important industrial mineral with many names, most of which are misnomers. Some of these incorrect names include:
Swiss Green Opal
Dragon’s Scale Stone
Lizard Skin Jasper
The reason for these misnomers mostly has to do with a lack of education. Opaque stones, especially with patterns, may simply be referred to as “jasper” by sellers, regardless of their true identity. The opal comparison likely comes from chrysotile’s similar density to opal.
One trick for remembering them is that chrysotile (think “tile” as in a tile floor) is the mineral with lots of construction uses.
Speaking of, what is chrysotile used for? In short: a lot.
Over 90 percent of the world’s industrial asbestos is chrysotile. In the US alone, chrysotile consumption amounts to roughly 13,000 metric tons annually.
Some of chrysotile’s uses include:
Brake linings and pads in vehicles
Insulation in ducts, appliances, gaskets, and pipes
Fireproofing, especially in drywall
Source of magnesium
Now that you know its uses, what kind of mineral is chrysotile?
Chrysotile is a mineral in the serpentine group. The approximate chrysotile formula of Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 also applies to the other members of the group, lizardite and antigorite, as they’re all magnesian serpentines.
The larger grouping chrysotile serpentine falls into is the asbestos group, split into serpentine and amphibole. The amphibole minerals include actinolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, crocidolite (blue asbestos), and amosite (brown asbestos).
All asbestos minerals are fibrous. Minerals in the serpentine asbestos group generally have curly fibers composed of crystal sheet layers, while amphibole minerals have needle-like (acicular) fibers.
Many amphibole minerals occur as contaminants in chrysotile, making the mineral more dangerous for asbestos poisoning (amphibole asbestos is more toxic than serpentine asbestos). Anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite all commonly contaminate chrysotile, talc, and vermiculite.
Here are the remaining chrysotile crystal properties:
Mohs hardness: 2.5-3
Color: White, golden-brown, gray, green, or gray-green; Sometimes yellow, yellowish-brown, or brown; May be veined or mottled
Crystal structure: Monoclinic (clinochrysotile); Orthorhombic (orthochyrostile, parachrysotile)
Refractive index: 1.56-1.57
Luminescence: Sometimes weak fluorescence in pale yellow
Optical effects: Sometimes chatoyancy
Chrysotile has three polytypes, or minerals that are polymorphic with each other. That means each type has the same chemical composition but different crystal structures from each other.
Clinochrysotile: Most common type, has monoclinic crystal system
Orthochrysotile: Rare type with orthorhombic crystal system and higher refractive index parallel to fibers’ long axis
Parachrysotile: Very rare type with orthorhombic crystal system and higher refractive index perpendicular to fibers’ long axis
There are also three varieties of chrysotile that are important to know:
Aluminian Chrysotile: Aluminum-rich variety
Chrysotilasbest: Variety with asbestiform habit (aggregate of easily separated fibers that are flexible, thin, long, and hard to break)
Ishkildite: Variety with more silica that has different optical properties than other chrysotile types
You know all about the mineral, but what about the chrysotile serpentine meaning?
Image credit: Eurico Zimbres | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
Chrysotile symbolizes self-reflection, strength, and resilience. It’s nicknamed in the spiritual community as the “Stone of Life.” This crystal is also a lucky zodiac stone for Gemini.
The misnomers of green zebra jasper asbestos or dragon’s scale stone also gained chrysotile a reputation in the past for helping its wearer identify and deflect evil or bad luck.
However, much of chrysotile’s modern history is in the dangers of chrysotile exposure.
We’ll start with chrysotile’s discovery. German mineralogist Franz von Kobell named chrysotile specimens from Canada first in 1843. He chose the name after the Greek chrysos for “gold” and tilos for “fiber,” referencing the stone’s golden fibers.
Before the current name, other mineralogical names for chrysotile were:
Chrysotile-alpha or α-Chrysotile
Throughout the 1900s, chrysotile made up the majority of asbestos products in the US. In fact, Canada and the US used to be the top chrysotile sources.
So, when was chrysotile banned?
The short answer? Much later than you’d expect. The slightly longer answer:
Using asbestos goes back to 2400 BC, with records indicating a possible tie to illness appearing in 1st-century AD. However, the first official record of asbestos poisoning appeared in 1924 in the British Medical Journal.
This medical article came 50 years after the first asbestos mine for commercial production opened in Canada during 1874. Asbestos poisoning, or asbestosis, got its first list of symptoms from Dr. E.R.A. Merewether in the 1930s.
In the UK, Merewether’s research helped enact governmental protection for asbestos factory workers but not for those installing the products.
Numerous other records of asbestos leading to illness or cancer occurred through the 1940s, with the Encyclopedia Britannica calling asbestos a “cause of occupational and environmental cancer” in 1949. Despite piles of research indicating the dangers, it wouldn’t be until 1969 that the UK enacted significant regulation.
In Australia, chrysotile has been banned since 2003. The government had started phasing out asbestos use in the 1960s.
During the 1970s, the US started establishing regulation for asbestosis. Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to phase out asbestos in the early 1990s, US courts prevented the ban.
As of April 5, 2022, the EPA is trying to enact a ban on chrysotile asbestos to protect manufacturers, installers, and consumers.
We’ll discuss more on safety in the Care and Maintenance section. But for now, let’s shift to spiritual health and discuss some of chrysotile’s healing properties!
Image credit: James St. John | Flickr
Yellow chrysotile stones have the benefits of yellow crystals, such as increasing hope, joy, and creativity. Meanwhile, brown chrysotile offers the grounding and balancing properties of brown gemstones.
What about specific physical, emotional, and chakra healing uses?
Chrysotile doesn’t have too many physical healing powers. The main physical uses for chrysotile healing stones are for treating issues relating to blood circulation and vision.
Some of chrysotile’s purported emotional healing properties include helping you release negative patterns of thinking or behaviors. The stone is also said to protect your sense of self as you work through pain from past emotional hardships, helping you stay calm and learn from your mistakes without judging yourself for them.
Chakra stones are used in the ancient practice of opening blocked energy centers (chakras) to resolve negative symptoms.
Green chrysotile, on the other hand, is a chakra stone for balancing the heart chakra, bringing in feelings of love for the self and others.
An open heart is valuable emotionally, but what is chrysotile’s value as a gemstone?
Like most gems, the value of chrysotile comes down to where each specific stone falls on the categories of color, cut, clarity, and treatments.
Despite its “white asbestos” name, most chrysotile stones that are polished and sold as gems are gray or green. They almost always have veining or mottling, often white and gray or medium to dark green and white. Sometimes chrysotile is brown or yellow.
You may also see carved chrysotiles such as towers, hearts, or wands.
Besides the rare horsetail inclusions that can make a demantoid garnet incredibly valuable, most chrysotile inclusions in other stones will decrease a stone’s value.
As far as inclusions in chrysotile itself, not many are common. However, the stone’s fibers can function like other inclusions in sometimes granting the valuable optical phenomenon of chatoyancy, or the “cat’s eye” effect.
Many chrysotile stones are dyed to take on brighter or more interesting colors. They may also be impregnated with resin for greater stability and durability.
Treatments generally lower a stone’s value (particularly dyeing), so sellers should always disclose if a chrysotile stone (or any gem for that matter) has been treated.
Image credit: James St. John | Flickr
The typical formation process of a chrysotile mineral is similar to that of antigorite and lizardite: hydrothermal alteration (a.k.a. low-grade metamorphism) of ultramafic rocks.
When mineral-rich water seeps into the rock crevices, it alters the minerals inside. The former minerals become new ones — in this case, olivine or orthopyroxene usually becomes chrysotile.
Common rocks containing chrysotile are altered dolomitic limestone and serpentinite.
Where is chrysotile mined? The most significant producers of chrysotile are:
Onto the crucial buyers’ question: how much do chrysotile gemstones cost?
Image credit: James St. John | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
The main forms of chrysotile you’ll see commonly sold are cabochons and tumbled stones. Most are striped with white streaking a medium to dark green or gray to black base.
Chrysotile cabochons and tumbled stones are super affordable. Most are under $1 per carat, with individual stones costing roughly $5 to $8 each.
Carvings like hearts, towers, and wands are slightly higher at around $15 each, though larger-sized options can be around $30 each.
Before we discuss gemstone care, let’s go over how to safely handle chrysotile. Luckily, amphibole asbestos minerals are much more dangerous than serpentine asbestos, but that doesn’t mean chrysotile is completely safe.
First, what is a high percentage of chrysotile? Most experts would say any amount percent is dangerous. However, the danger of chrysotile is when its released fibers are inhaled. Therefore, polished stones don’t present a risk unless they’re crushed.
That said, gem cutters need to take precautions when cutting chrysotile — e.g. isolated work areas, proper safety equipment including masks and eye coverings, and gloves. Additionally, most safety experts suggest cutting the stones while they’re wet, as dry cutting will lead to more fibers being released.
Everyday buyers need to be careful handling rough specimens, ideally storing them in a sealed container to prevent fiber inhalation.
Onto gemstone care!
While chrysotile won’t dissolve in water, its fibers will start to disintegrate in diluted acid, so don’t let any acids near the stone.
You can clean (polished) chrysotile with the standard soft toothbrush, warm water, and mild soap. Store it separately from other gems to avoid scratching.
Don’t let the asbestos aspect dissuade you — polished chrysotile stones aren’t only safe to use, they offer numerous benefits for emotional healing and protection from bad vibes. With affordable prices and eye-catching patterns, what’s not to love?
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