Although we tend to refer to Serpentine as a gem type, it is in fact a gem family featuring several different minerals including Antigorite, Chrysotile and Lizardite (named after the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall where it was first discovered). As Serpentine is relatively soft (2.5 to 4.1 on the Mohs scale), gem-quality material is normally kept for gem collectors rather than being set into jewellery. Unfortunately for those of us that live in the UK, all gem-quality Serpentine is Antigorite, rather than the Lizardite which is found in plentiful supply in the South West of the country!
In some countries, Serpentine is dyed and sold as “Korean Jade” or “New Jade”. In times gone by in New Zealand, the Maori people use to carve ornaments out of the mineral, as the gem is relatively soft and easy to work with.
Similar to the likes of Chalcedony and Agate, Serpentine is a microcrystalline gem and therefore is normally opaque to translucent in appearance. Colours range from whiteish grey, to yellowish green, to very dark brown, almost black.
The Serpentine we currently have in our vault is from Afghanistan, but it can also be discovered in Cornwall, England, Ireland, California, Canada and Norway.