Serpentine Group

Category  :  Mineral
Hardness  :  2.5- 4
Gravity  :  2.2–2.9
Reflection  :  1.55 -1.56
Color  :  Greenish gray to grayish white or green color,in darked green or blakish color rocks.
Chemical formula  :  ((Mg, Fe)3Si2O5(OH)4)
Crystal system  :  Orthorhombic
Major varieties  :  Serpentine

They have their origins in metamorphic alterations of peridotite and pyroxene. Serpentines may also pseudomorphously replace other magnesium silicates. Alterations may be incomplete, causing physical properties of serpentines to vary widely. Where they form a significant part of the land surface, the soil is unusually high in clay.

Antigorite is the polymorph of serpentine that most commonly forms during metamorphism of wet ultramafic rocks and is stable at the highest temperatures -- to over 600°C at depths of 60 km or so. In contrast, lizardite and chrysotile typically form near the Earth's surface and break down at relatively low temperatures, probably well below 400°C. It has been suggested that chrysotile is never stable relative to either of the other two serpentine polymorphs.

Samples of the oceanic crust and uppermost mantle from ocean basins document that ultramafic rocks there commonly contain abundant serpentine. Antigorite contains water in its structure, about 13 percent by weight. Hence, antigorite may play an important role in the transport of water into the earth in subduction zones and in the subsequent release of water to create magmas in island arcs, and some of the water may be carried to yet greater depths.

Soils derived from serpentine are toxic to many plants, because of high levels of nickel, chromium, and cobalt; growth of many plants is also inhibited by low levels of potassium and phosphorus and a low ratio of calcium/magnesium. The flora is generally very distinctive, with specialised, slow-growing species. Areas of serpentine-derived soil will show as strips of shrubland and open, scattered small trees (often conifers) within otherwise forested areas; these areas are called serpentine barrens.

Most serpentines are opaque to translucent, light (specific gravity between 2.2–2.9), soft (hardness 2.5–4), infusible and susceptible to acids. All are microcrystalline and massive in habit, never being found as single crystals. Luster may be vitreous, greasy or silky. Colours range from white to grey, yellow to green, and brown to black, and are often splotchy or veined. Many are intergrown with other minerals, such as calcite and dolomite. Occurrence is worldwide; New Caledonia, Canada (Quebec), USA (northern California), Afghanistan, Cornwall, China, Asia, France, Norway and Italy are notable localities.


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