Serpentine characteristics
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Serpentine characteristics

serpentine, history and healing properties

Pendant with serpentine

Serpentine is a mineral family belonging to the silicate group with more than 20 members. It is quite hard to identify because of the important variety of the group. This led to a lot of mistakes.

It goes from white to black, passing through blue, yellow, green, brown and grey. But the most common color is the olive green one. Serpentine is opaque or very slightly translucent with a soft and scaly aspect. It often shows some veins.

Its name comes from the Latin serpentines, which means "stone snake".

Serpentine is mainly composed of iron hydroxide, aluminum, nickel, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

In the Serpentine family, you can find antigorite, chrysotile and lizardite.

In jewelry, antigorite and lizardite are often used. Some varieties of the first one easily imitate jade stone. Serpentine is sometimes dyed in a bad ways and you can find it under the names of Suzhou jade, Styrian Jade, Teton jade or new jade.

Some members of this family can be dangerous for health if it is breathed as dust. As a block of stone, there is no problem. This is due to the fibrous composition of some of its members that stays in the lungs and can provoke cancer, just like asbestos. This mainly concerns chrysotile. Do not worry about jewels made with this stone because the toxic varieties are not used.

Serpentine can be toxic for plants due to nickel, chrome, cobalt and the strong presence of potassium and phosphor. Mine zones can be identified thanks to its peculiar vegetation made of small plants able to bear such conditions. It is qualified as "sterile serpentine zone" that can appear among a rich vegetation.

The most attractive and used varieties (most of them are antigorites) are called noble serpentine or precious serpentine.

Mines: France, the USA, New Caledonia, Canada, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Greece, China, Russia, Korea, Austria, India, Burma, New Zealand, Norway, Italy.

History, legends and beliefs about serpentine

Many civilizations from the Antiquity such as Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians and Egyptians used serpentine to make seals and cylindrical seals. They took advantage of these stone qualities which once polished shows a greasy and oily surface. This prevents clay or wax to stick to the seal when applied.

Once the cylindrical seal appeared in Mesopotamia around 3500 B.C, serpentine was the best material to use.

history and healing properties of serpentine

Earrings with serpentine

Romans used serpentine a lot in decoration, particularly like marble. They would call it lapis atracius, which is known today as ophicalcite with the Genoa green or the Maurin Green.
In Italy, from the Roman period to the Middle Ages, the "sorcerers" thought that serpentine would protect against snakebites and could help to reduce venom. This belief can be found in other civilizations in the world and some even think that it is this property that gave the name to the stone.

In India, the city of Bhera has been famous for centuries because of its pure serpentine and for its carving work. Artisans would make all sorts of precious objects such as sculptures, mugs, handles, sword decorations… Indians would call this stone "Sang-i-Yashm" and British settlers "fake jade".

Maoris from New Zealand would carve sacred objects in this stone that they would call Tangiwai or "tears" because of its transparency, and also because of a legend about a woman with petrified tears made of this stone.

Since 1965, serpentine has bene the official stone of the state of California, USA. However, because of problems due to asbestos, it was asked to get rid of it since 2010.

Healing properties of serpentine

  • Serpentine would resolve hypoglycemic problems, diabetes and would balance calcium and magnesium rates.
  • It would protect against parasite infections.
  • It would help to renew cells.
  • Serpentine would cure heart and lungs problems.
  • It would relieve cramps and pains due to menstruations.
  • It would help regulating the milk production for breastfeeding women.

/!\ Please note that all healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions.

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