Serpentine Meaning and Properties

Serpentine History

Serpentine gemstone, or "precious serpentine," was named in 1564 by Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer) from the Latin "serpens" for its mottled and scaley appearance like a serpent or snake. It is also known by many trade names such as false jade and Teton jade. Serpentine can also be confused with jade (although serpentine is usually spotted or veined), onyx marble, turquoise and verdite. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads clearly identifies ''new'' jade as a serpentine.

Serpentine is used mainly as a decorative stone or for ornamental objects. Serpentine gemstones have been used as a source of magnesium, in asbestos and for personal adornment or sculpture throughout history. Various serpentine minerals have even been used in architecture for thousands of years.

Serpentine Metaphysical Properties

Serpentine is believed to help establish control over one's life. According to metaphysical beliefs, serpentine provides a clearing of thought to better facilitate meditation. Serpentine is said to clear clouded areas of the chakras and stimulate the crown chakra, promoting spiritual understanding and psychic abilities.

Serpentine Geological Properties

Serpentine is actually a group of magnesium silicate minerals, which are related but have different structures. All variations of serpentine are a basic magnesium silicate, with many containing iron as well. Serpentine may also contain smaller quantities of elements such as chromium, nickel and cobalt. Serpentine is found in two aggregate structures: leafy serpentine (leafy antigorite) and fibrous serpentine (fibrous chrysotile), with very fine fibrous varieties designated as asbestos serpentine. Serpentine has a greasy to silky luster and is sensitive to acids. Colors are often spotty.

Deposits of serpentine are found in Afghanistan, China, New Zealand and the United States.

Mineral Information Basic magnesium silicate, sometimes containing other elements
Chemical Composition H4Mg3Si2O9
Color Green, yellowish, brown
Hardness 2-1/2 to 5-1/2 (Mohs)
Specific Gravity 2.44 - 2.62
Refractive Index 1.560 - 1.571

Proper Care of Serpentine

The best method of cleaning serpentine gems and jewelry is to rinse with a mild soap and water (it is not recommended to use steaming, ultrasonic or boiling methods). Wipe with a soft, untreated cloth that is not impregnated with abrasive materials such as rouge. Dry gemstones and settings thoroughly before wearing or storing. Put on your serpentine jewelry after applying cosmetics and perfumes.

To learn more about serpentine and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of Gemstones of the World.

Designing with Serpentine

Because of its green hues and mottled appearance, serpentine is a great alternative to turquoise. Like turquoise, serpentine combines well with amber, sparkling crystals, dyed mountain ''jade,'' Hemalyke™ and, of course, turquoise. And because serpentine can also be confused with jade, onyx marble and verdite, it works well with--or as a substitute for--these gemstones. A variety of serpentine called Russian serpentine, with its black and grey coloring, teams up well with many colors such as the vibrant red of coral.

View design inspirations featuring serpentine in the Gallery of Designs.

Shop for Serpentine Items

Serpentine Beads

**Please note that all metaphysical or healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® does not guarantee the validity of any of these statements.

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