Everything You Need to Know about the Serpentine Gemstone
Ethereal green with an endless array of alluring patterns, serpentine gemstones have entranced people for millennia. From jewelry to architecture to art, serpentine has been used in hundreds of ways to create stunning decorative items and cultural artifacts.
If you are interested in using serpentine gemstones in your work, here is everything you need to know.
What is a Serpentine Gemstone?
Serpentine gemstones are derived from minerals created from a process of serpentinization — a metamorphic process that occurs at low temperatures combining heat and water to oxidize ultramafic rocks, creating the telltale fibrous or plate-like patterns that look like snake scales.
The name serpentine doesn't refer to a single gemstone but rather to a group of minerals composed of hydrated magnesium silicate that can also contain small amounts of nickel, cobalt, manganese and chromium. These trace elements produce a serpentine stone in a variety of colors, including brown, yellow, white and green.
However, the green serpentine gemstones most often used in jewelry making are part of the serpentine subgroup of stones known as antigorite, as this form of serpentine is safe for drilling and shaping unlike other forms such as chrysotile, which is used in asbestos.
The Physical Properties of Serpentine
Once cut and shaped, serpentine gemstones are predominantly light and dark green patterned stones that are slippery to the touch. Impurities in the stones can produce attractive veins and marbled patterns. They are often cut with a high dome shape to accentuate these patterns.
Serpentine is beloved by jewelry makers, as it is very easy to work with, produces alluring patterns and can be polished to a high waxy luster. Serpentine gemstones are often cut into cabochon shapes or small beads.
However, on the Mohs scale of hardness, serpentine rates 3 to 6, which is relatively low when compared to other gemstones and minerals such as granite. This means that it can be easily scratched or chipped, which limits the use of serpentine to low-impact jewelry, sculptures and surfaces.
Where is Serpentine Found?
Serpentine is most often found at points where oceanic plates converge with the mantle, as this produces the hydrothermal conditions most conducive to creating serpentine minerals. Although they are not commonly found on the Earth's surface, there are substantial portions of the planet that have serpentine hidden underneath.
Large deposits of serpentine can be found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, around Greece and Cyprus, and in the mountain ranges of New Zealand, Austria, France, Italy and the U.S.
Historical Uses for Serpentine Stones
In Ancient Egypt, Persia and Assyria, serpentine was highly prized gem for its luster and was used to make jewelry, household items and gifts for deities. Pendants of serpentine were often worn as protection against snakebites and other poisons or to ward off evil spirits, but more often serpentine was used for household ornaments because it was both beautiful and easy to carve.
In the Punjab region of Southeast Asia, pure serpentine was used to create elaborate handles for weaponry, and Maori tribes in New Zealand used serpentine to carve small talismans and ornaments.
Uses of Serpentine Stones Today
Today, serpentine is predominantly used in sculpture and jewelry making. However, it is also often used as part of holistic health practices for its supposed healing and spiritual properties.
The mineral's association with the snake has lead people to believe the stone possesses magical qualities that can not only protect you from snakebites but also induces spiritual harmony by creating a protective energy shield around the body, allowing you the freedom to pursue long-held dreams. Wearing serpentine jewelry that comes in contact with the body, such as a bracelet, allows the energy of the stone to help you turn negative thoughts and actions into positive ones.
Another effective way to harness the energy of serpentine stones is through meditation. Just as you need to draw the poison out of a snakebite, meditating with serpentine gemstones can draw out negative thinking patterns and help you to make a positive resolution for your future. Placing serpentine jewelry or carvings in areas of stress, such as your work environment, can help you to repel negative thoughts that may distract you from your work.
The green color of the serpentine gemstone is linked to money and career, and wearing jewelry made from serpentine is said to help you to attract wealth, achieve your ambitions and boost your career path.
Serpentine is also used as an affordable alternative to jade — which is a much harder gemstone to work with — to create jewelry and carvings. Modern artisans using ancient tribal techniques have started using serpentine as a material for producing crockery that is imbued with healing properties for diabetics.
Serpentine is a stunning gemstone and a worthwhile addition to any crafter's kit. But more than that, investing in genuine serpentine gemstones can bring you some amazing benefits for your health, spirit and home.