Serpentine is a well-known gemstone in the world of gemology and avid crystal collector circles but tends to be more obscure to the general public. This mostly ornamental gemstone appears in varying shades of green with visually striking veining patterns.
What is serpentine’s name origin? Some say the crystal’s name comes from its unique appearance! Its intricate markings and slippery feel are reminiscent of a serpent. Hence, the name “serpentine!”
Often confused with jade because of their similar likeness, serpentine belongs to an entirely different, unrelated series of minerals.
That’s right — series! Serpentine doesn’t refer to a single mineral but rather a large group of minerals. These serpentine minerals are all related, sharing similar compositions and forming through similar processes.
Curious to learn more about the unique serpentine mineral series? Keep reading to slither into all there is to know about serpentine’s history, meanings, properties, value, and more!
First, what is serpentine good for? Besides its transformative healing powers (more on that in a bit), serpentine is used in jewelry, architecture, art, and more!
Serpentine’s similarity to jade makes it popular as an affordable jade substitute. Some even call it “new jade” or “snake jade.” However, serpentine is softer than real jade! Some other pseudonyms are “false jade” and “teton jade.”
The official state mineral of California may be gold, but serpentine was awarded the title of official state rock for the Golden State in 1965.
While it’s not an official zodiac stone, serpentine attunes to Gemini signs in astrology. The meaning of serpentine to Geminis is one of grounding. Its spiritual vibrations can help bring balance to Gemini’s conflicting nature.
Next up, serpentine’s mineral traits!
While green serpentine stone tends to be the most common, this semi-precious gemstone also appears in varying yellows, browns, blues, and whites. Most stones display spotty, vein-like inclusions of chromite or magnetite octahedra. Some specimens have so much magnetite that you can move them with a magnet!
Some fibrous varieties (like chrysotile) can resist heat transfer, combat burning, and act as ideal heat insulators in an industrial capacity.
Though properties can vary among different serpentine minerals, here is an overview of generalized serpentine properties:
Chemical Formula: (Mg,Fe,Ni)3Si2O5(OH)4
Mohs hardness: Between 3 to 5, but varies
Color: Varying shades of green, yellow, black, white, and other colors
Crystal structure: Monoclinic; microcrystalline
Luster: Waxy, Resinous, Greasy, Silky, Dull
Transparency: Translucent to opaque, rarely transparent
Refractive index: 1.56 to 1.57
Density: 2.5 to 2.6
Cleavage: Poor to perfect; Sometimes none
Fracture: Granular, uneven
Luminescence: Fluorescent; Inert to weak blue in SW-UV, Inert to weak green in LW-UV
While serpentine subgroups share similar compositions, their properties have some variations. They usually occur mixed as rocks. When cut, they’re all described as “serpentine,” but they differ in various ways.
Antigorite is the most commonly faceted variation. It’s more of a yellow serpentine than a green type and occurs on every continent, including Antarctica.
Bowenite is a translucent variety of antigorite and commonly appears in blue-green, yellow-green, or dark green shades. It’s also the hardest of the serpentines. Notable deposits have been found in Afghanistan, China, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.
Chrysotile is a fibrous variety and a source of asbestos found worldwide. It can appear in white, gray, yellow, brown, and green.
Healerite, or noble serpentine, is soft lime-green serpentine and a more recently discovered variation. It hails from the Washington State mountains in Northwest USA.
Lizardite is the most common serpentine variety and was named for the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, England where it was first discovered. Lizardite joins chrysotile and antigorite as one of the three primary serpentine minerals.
Found in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Vermont (USA), verd antique is a green gem rock marbled with serpentine, calcite, dolomite, and magnesite.
Named after its discoverer (Lewis White Williams), williamsite is another translucent variety of antigorite. It’s usually apple-green with dark octahedral chromite crystals and patches of white magnesium hydroxide.
Moving along, let’s take a peek at serpentine’s journey through history!
Serpentine was named by German mineralogist Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer) in 1564. The name derives from Latin serpens (for “serpent”) because of the stone’s mottled green appearance that resembles the skin of a snake.
Serpentine was highly regarded in Ancient Egypt, Persia, and Assyria for its exquisite luster. It was popular in jewelry, household decor, and religious offerings. Serpentine pendants were often worn to fight evil energies and protect against snakebites. Even more popular was its ornamental use in decorative carvings and sculptures.
In the Punjab region of Southeast Asia, serpentine was used to adorn native weaponry. Similarly, the Maori tribes of New Zealand would carve talismans and ornaments from serpentine. It was also highly valued by the Aztec civilization.
Fibrous varieties, like chrysotile, were once used to make asbestos for many industrial uses. However, due to its association with respiratory disease, asbestos has mostly been retired. Today, serpentine is mainly used in jewelry and sculptures.
So, how did serpentine garner the honor of California’s state rock? It earned the distinction not just because of its local abundance and industrial uses but also because of all the good it does for the land.
Serpentine can host rare, unique vegetation. Additionally, it delivers healing to the planet by reducing greenhouse gasses through carbon sequestration. Good-bye, climate crisis — Hello, self-sustaining Mother Earth!
Metaphysically, what does serpentine mean?
Like most crystals, serpentine’s composition and metaphysical properties make it a potent healing stone.
As with most green crystals, serpentine is an earth-element stone. Its green color is symbolic of prosperity, flourishing, grounding, and Mother Earth.
Keep reading to see how serpentine benefits your mind, body, and spirit!
In terms of physical healing, serpentine may help alleviate diabetes and hypoglycemia.
Its cleansing energy can be highly detoxifying for the body and blood — helping to rid you of parasites and bugs. It may also help your body absorb calcium and magnesium.
For emotional uses, serpentine is a favorite among crystal healers as a symbol of protection. Its association with snakes is said to induce protective energy around the body and spirit — enabling you to pursue achievements you’ve been putting off.
Some say that keeping serpentine close to you helps turn negative thoughts and actions into positive ones.
Some gems can help balance the seven chakras (or energy points) along the center of your body. While serpentine can be used as a chakra stone for your entire chakral body, it particularly resonates with the heart chakra.
The heart chakra is associated with love, compassion, and healing. Serpentine can help open the chakra to bring you a sense of calm, peace, and self-love.
Now that you know all about serpentine crystal benefits, let’s look at which properties play into its value!
Serpentine’s value stems from standard properties like color, cut, clarity, and weight.
Serpentine stones vary in shades of green but sometimes appear in varying hues of white, yellow, gray, brown, or black. Most gems are veiny or spotted and may exhibit areas of chatoyancy (the cat’s eye effect), which can appear light or dark depending on your viewing perspective.
Although it’s a relatively soft gem, serpentine can be cut into various shapes and used in low-impact jewelry like earrings or pendants. Lapidaries often cut serpentine into cabochons, beads, and decorative carvings. Some varieties (like williamsite) are translucent enough to be faceted.
Serpentine is generally translucent to opaque and rarely semi-transparent. Most gems contain impurities of calcite and other mineral inclusions. The inclusions produce white or black veining, marbling, or spotting. The more intricate the pattern, the more desirable the gem.
Serpentine usually always occurs in large formations and is later cut down by lapidaries. In terms of sizing, serpentine gems generally weigh in carats. On the other hand, serpentine carvings and sculptures can vary in measurement and may be sold by dimensions instead of weight.
Serpentine stones are subject to a couple of treatments: impregnation with resin (to improve stability) and dye (to improve color).
Green dyes enhance their “jade-like” appearance, but they can also create shades beyond green serpentine’s natural range, like oranges and purples. These dyed specimens can imitate other gems besides jade, such as sugilite.
So how is serpentine formed anyway? Let’s find out!
First, is serpentine rock? Yes! Well, kind of.
Technically, serpentine is the metamorphosed remains of magnesium-rich igneous rocks from Earth's mantle. These ultramafic rocks (commonly peridotite or dunite) undergo hydrothermal metamorphism at convergent plate boundaries.
During this metamorphism, minerals like olivine and pyroxene transform into serpentine minerals. Some of the metamorphic rocks produced, called serpentinites, are composed almost entirely of serpentine minerals.
Much of Earth’s surface is situated just above serpentinites! These areas occur near present or ancient convergent tectonic plate boundaries where remnants of oceanic plates are exposed to the surface. These remnants were either thrust up, grown onto the edge of a landmass or brought up by weathering.
The sites of these exposed oceanic plates (known as ophiolites) are often home to minerals like magnetite, chromite, chrysoprase, jade, and of course, serpentine!
Where is serpentine found?
Large deposits can be found in Greece, Cyprus, and mountain ranges of Russia, New Zealand, Austria, France, Italy, and the U.S.
Some other notable localities across the world include:
Compelled to purchase your own serpentine gems? Here’s what to expect budget-wise!
Because serpentine is a common and widely abundant mineral, it’s also fairly affordable.
Smaller gemstones cut into rounded shapes like cabochons can range between $0.20 to $2.74 per carat. Beads can range approximately between $0.07 to $0.26 per carat.
Jewelry prices vary. Rings generally tend to teeter between $36 to $70, but some can fetch prices as high as $136. Beaded bracelets range between $2.50 to $40.
Uncut (or raw) serpentine can fare between $0.41 to $0.89 per carat.
So you’ve finally scored some “snake jade” to add to your crystal collection! Let’s wrap up with some serpentine gemstone care!
Serpentine is a soft, delicate mineral — so much so that even household dust particles can cause it to scratch.
Ring stones should implement a protective setting to ensure your gem’s longevity.
To extend your serpentine crystals’ lifespan, avoid:
Sudden temperature changes
Wearing during impact-prone activities
For cleaning, use mild soap and water. Gently pat dry with a soft, untreated cloth. Dry thoroughly and store in a protective pouch away from harder gems or impact risk.
Just as a snake sheds its skin, serpentine helps you shed negative energies and replaces them with fresh, positive vibes to keep you going. Besides its metaphysical abilities, serpentine continues to be a show-stopping feature in artistic sculptures and one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.
Whether you’re looking to transform your space, spirit, or both, serpentine may just be the obscure crystal you didn’t know you needed!
Buy serpentine gemstones today!
Was this article helpful?2 people found this article helpful