Serpentine vs. Jade – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist

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Serpentine vs. Jade – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist


People have been interested in serpentine and jade stones for hundreds of years. They look a lot alike at first glance, especially since they are often green and are used to make jewelry and decorations, but they are actually very different.

It turns out that serpentine and jade are related to each other in the world of geology. As a family, they are used in art and decoration, but they are also different in ways that make them stand out.

Were going to dig deeper into these similarities and differences to show the interesting details of how they work. Without getting too technical, we’ll talk about how they look, what they’re made of, and many other things.

This will be a fun and interesting read for anyone interested in these two amazing stones!

The Major Differences

Although both serpentine and jade look lovely, there are some big differences between the two that will help you tell them apart. These things identify them:

Appearance – Jade has a smooth appearance

A bright green polished jade slab
Jade photo provided by TheJadeMine

Even though both serpentine and jade are valued for their beauty, they look very different from one another. Serpentine is famous for having a lot of different and often dramatic looks.

It usually has a range of colors, from dark green to black, and sometimes it has white or yellowish streaks that make it look speckled or veined. The different types come from the different rocks that are in the serpentine group.

Its texture can be waxy, greasy, or silky, and its designs are often wavy, spotted, or even shaped like scales, which is how it got its name.

Jade is known for having a smooth, even look. It includes two types: nephrite and jadeite. Both add to the look of the stone as a whole. Nephrite usually has a smooth, creamy appearance and comes in colors from dark green to white.

Jadeite is the less common and more expensive of the two. It can show more vivid colors, such as emerald green, lavender, red, and blue. The surface of jade is usually a more uniform color and small.

It doesn’t have the spots or veins that you see on serpentine. Its smooth, polished surface gives it a shiny look that is highly valued in fine jewelry and sculpture.

Because jade is tough and has a fine grain, it’s often used for artifacts with a lot of detailed carvings because the stone’s appearance stays the same throughout the carving.

Chemical Composition – Serpentine is composed of hydrated magnesium silicate

A gorgeous polished serpentine with a beautiful surface pattern
Serpentine photo provided by and available for purchase at MajesticMineralsUS

The chemicals that make up serpentine and jade are very different from one another. This makes their physical qualities and uses very different. Serpentine is a group of rocks mostly made up of magnesium silicate that has been hydrated.

It also contains iron, chromium, and nickel in different amounts. Because of this mix, different serpentine rocks have slightly different chemical make-ups. These different metals can change the color and certain qualities of different types of serpentine.

For example, the iron in serpentine can make it look green, while the chromium can make it look darker and deeper green.

The word “jade” refers to two different rocks, nephrite and jadeite. Each has its own chemical structure. Nephrite is a type of actinolite material that is in the amphibole group, and it is mostly made up of calcium magnesium silicate.

Its famous toughness comes from this mix, which gives it a creamy-green color. Jadeite is a pyroxene mineral that is more expensive and harder to find. It’s mostly made up of sodium aluminum silicate.

Jadeite can show a bigger range of colors, such as deep greens, reds, blues, and violets because it contains trace elements like chromium, iron, and manganese.

Because nephrite and jadeite are made up of different chemicals, they have different physical qualities and different cultural and historical meanings. This is because different civilizations have valued each type of jade differently.

Color – Jade colors range from green to lavender, red, orange, and black

A majestic rough and natural jade
Jade photo provided by mussaminerals

The different shades of color in serpentine and jade are very noticeable and show off their unique mineral features. Serpentine is known for having a wide range of colors, mostly types of green, from light greens that are almost yellow to deep forest greens.

Its different shades of green are often mottled or veined, making complicated designs with whites, yellows, and sometimes black or dark gray.

The different concentrations of iron, chromium, nickel, and other chemicals that make it up are what cause these differences. Because these elements are present, some examples may have a more uniform color, while others may have a more varied look.

Nephrite is mostly made up of creamy whites and different shades of green, ranging from light, muted greens to strong, dark greens.

When compared to serpentine, nephrite’s color is usually more even and has fewer patterns. The more rare and expensive stone, jadeite, comes in a wider range of colors, such as bright emerald greens, blues, lavenders, reds, and even black.

The color of jadeite can be very strong, especially in fine pieces, and is valued for how vivid and saturated it is. Serpentine often has a very dramatic and uneven look, but nephrite and jadeite have a more even and subtle color distribution.

This clear difference in color and patterning is a big part of what makes these two rocks valuable and attractive.

Density – Serpentine has a lower density

A natural serpentine mineral with a moss green hue
Serpentine photo provided by RelicGemstones

Because serpentine and jade are made up of different minerals and have different structural qualities, their densities, which show how dense they are and how much mass they have per unit volume, vary a lot.

Serpentine usually has a lower density because it’s made up of wet magnesium silicates. This lower density comes from the way its molecules are arranged and the water molecules that are inside its structure.

It usually weighs between 2.5 and 2.6 grams per cubic centimeter, which is one reason why it’s not as heavy as jade. Because it’s less dense, serpentine is easier to carve and shape, which can be used in a variety of artistic and useful ways.

Because its molecules are more tightly packed and its materials are different, jade, which is made up of nephrite and jadeite, has higher densities. Nephrite is mostly made up of calcium magnesium silicate.

It’s heavier than serpentine, weighing between 2.9 and 3.0 grams per cubic centimeter. Even denser is jadeite, which is made up of sodium aluminum silicate and has a density of about 3.3 to 3.5 grams per cubic centimeter.

Because it has a higher density, jade has a solid, heavy feel, which is often linked to its reputation as a valuable and expensive object. The denser structure of jade, especially jadeite, makes it very tough and hard to break, which is why it’s so valuable for making long-lasting and complex objects.

The different densities of serpentine and jade affect not only how they feel and how much they weigh, but also how they are seen and used in different artistic and cultural settings.

Formation – Jade forms in metamorphic environments

A natural jade stone with a mesmerizing green hue
Jade photo provided by SiberianJade

The ways that serpentine and jade are formed in the earth are very different, which shows that they were formed in very different places and situations.

Different ultramafic rocks from the Earth’s core are changed in a process called serpentinization to make serpentine.

Under certain conditions, these rocks that come from the core usually change when they come into contact with water at low temperatures.

This usually happens when the rocks are brought to the Earth’s surface by tectonic movements.

This process makes serpentine minerals, which can have different make-ups depending on the elements in the rock that they formed from and the surroundings around them.

Nephrite and jadeite form in very different natural settings. Nephrite is mostly made in metamorphic settings, which are places where rocks are heated and pressed under a lot of pressure.

Minerals that are high in calcium silicates and found in ultramafic rocks often change into it.

Jadeite forms in even harsher conditions, like places where the oceanic crust is pushed into the basement by subduction zones with very high pressure and low temperatures.

Because of the way things are in these areas, rocks that are high in sodium and aluminum can turn into jadeite. There are different ways that serpentine and jade were formed, which is why they have different physical and chemical qualities that affect their color, texture, and structure.

The rocks’ geological histories not only show how the Earth has changed over time, but they also add to their value and draw in many artistic and cultural settings.

Hardness – Serpentine is softer

A natural serpentine with a yellowish-green color
Serpentine photo provided by zscollectionz

The Mohs scale shows that serpentine and jade are not at all the same when it comes to how hard they are. This has an effect on how they are used and handled.

Serpentine is pretty soft; on the Mohs scale, it’s usually between 2.5 and 5. Because it is soft, serpentine is easy to scratch or cut, which is why it has been used for a long time for decorative carvings and inlays.

Because serpentine is soft, it’s more likely to get worn down and damaged, so it’s not the best choice for uses that need something that will last longer.

Serpentine is known for being soft, but jade is known to be much harder and tougher than serpentine. One type of jade is nephrite, which is rated between 5.5 and 6 on the Mohs scale.

The other kind, jadeite, is even harder; most people score it between 6 and 7. Because it’s so hard, jade is much less likely to scratch or break. This is one reason why it has been used for thousands of years to make tools, weapons, and long-lasting decorations.

It’s interesting that jade, especially nephrite, is so tough; its interlocked fibrous crystal structure makes it more difficult to break, even though it’s about as hard as some other rocks.

Together, this toughness and hardness give jade a big advantage when it comes to durability and longevity. This makes it a very valuable material for many things, from jewelry to detailed carvings.

The difference in hardness between jade and serpentine affects both their actual uses and how they are worked and shaped. It takes more skill and effort to shape and polish jade.

Luster – Jade has a more subdued luster

Jade photo provided by ARTelStones

The luster of serpentine and jade, which is how light reacts with their surfaces, is very different, which adds to their unique beauty. People like serpentine because it looks shiny and smooth thanks to its waxy to silky sheen.

Serpentine has this kind of shine because of their fine-grained, flexible crystal structure and the way they are made. Different types of serpentine have slightly different sheens; some have a more greasy or even glassy look.

But all of them have a soft, almost silky gloss that brings out the patterns and colors in the stone.

The shine of jade, which includes both nephrite and jadeite, is usually softer and more polished. People often say that it has a greasy or silky sheen, which gives its surface a rich and smooth feel.

The shine in jade comes from its very small, closely packed crystals, which scatter light in a way that makes it look soft and almost peaceful.

Jade’s luster is more stable and less changeable than serpentine’s, which helps to make it seem like a more expensive and valuable material.

When jade is highly polished, its shine brings out its color and depth, which makes it a popular choice for jewelry and other decorative items.

The shine that serpentine and jade have is not only a trait that makes them stand out, but it also shows how their mineral structures and compositions are different, which affects both their beauty and cultural value.

Magnetism – Serpentine has magnetic properties

A unique and distinct serpentine slab with a smooth surface texture
Serpentine photo provided by Baffininuitart

The minerals that make up serpentine and jade affect their magnetic qualities. This means that when exposed to magnetic fields, the two stones react very differently.

Because serpentine is made up of different elements, like iron, nickel, and chromium, it may be magnetic to some degree. Part of the magnetic properties of some types of serpentine come from the iron that is present.

These parts can make serpentine weakly magnetic, so it can stick to strong magnets or pull small iron items to it. However, this magnetic trait isn’t the same in all types of serpentine.

It depends a lot on the minerals that are in the stone and how much magnetic material is in it.

Nephrite and jadeite are both types of jade that don’t usually have magnetic qualities. Both nephrite and jadeite are made up of silicate rocks that don’t have a lot of magnetic elements in them, like iron.

This means that jade is not magnetic and does not react to magnetic fields. The fact that jade is not magnetic is true for all colors and qualities of the stone. This makes it a reliable way to tell jade apart from other rocks or make sure it is real.

Because jade is made up of different minerals and has a different structure, it is not magnetic like serpentine and other stones that are magnetic.

This trait is especially important in the area of gemology, where magnetic properties are often used to help identify and group stones.

Price – Jade can fetch higher prices

An elegant jade pebble with a pretty pattern on its surface
Jade photo provided by RareJadeShop

There are big price differences between serpentine and jade, which are caused by things like scarcity, cultural importance, and demand. The value of serpentine is usually a lot cheaper than jade because it is easier to find and not as sought after as jade.

It’s cheap because it’s easy to find and mine. Even though some types of serpentine, especially those with unique colors or shapes, may sell for more, it’s still a lot less expensive than jade.

Because it’s less expensive than jade, serpentine is often used for bigger artistic items and building parts where jade would be too expensive.

If you want to buy a rock, jade is one of the most expensive options. Especially good jadeite. Some of the things that affect the price of jade are its color, how clear it is, and how rough it is.

The most valuable jadeite is very green and clear. The value of jade is also affected by how important it is culturally, especially in East Asian cultures. Even though nephrite is not as expensive as jadeite, it’s still very expensive, especially for pieces with great color and workmanship.

High-quality jade is an expensive item because it’s hard to find and has cultural and historical value.

The price difference between serpentine and jade isn’t just based on how they look; it also shows how important and valuable people in different countries think they are.

Because jade, especially jadeite, is so expensive, it’s seen as a sign of wealth and status. On the other hand, serpentine is easier to get and is used by more people.

The Similarities

Serpentine and jade are not the same, but they are similar in some cool ways. These facts about these gems might surprise someone who only knows how they look.

Cleavage – Both serpentine and jade don’t have cleavage

Serpentine photo provided by KnKMinerals

Serpentine and jade are very different from one another, but they have a lot in common when it comes to cleavage. Cleavage is the way that minerals break along specific weak lines.

There is no cleavage in either of these minerals, which means they don’t break along clear, flat lines. In both gemology and the art of lapidary, this trait is important.

Because the crystals in serpentine are intertwined and fibrous or platy, there is no cleavage. When this structure breaks, it usually does so in an uneven or conchoidal way, which means it breaks in smooth, curved surfaces instead of straight lines.

It can be cut and shaped without breaking along its natural weak spots. This makes it useful for many artistic and decorative purposes.

In the same way, jade, especially nephrite jade, is known for being tough. This is mostly because its crystal structure is made up of interwoven flexible crystals.

Like serpentine, this structure doesn’t allow for cutting, and jade usually breaks into small pieces or splinters.

Nephrite has no cleavage, which is one reason why it was used to make tools and weapons in the past and is still used today to make detailed carvings.

The other type of jade, jadeite, also doesn’t have a clear cleft, but it’s a little more fragile than nephrite.

Because serpentine and jade don’t have any cleavage, they are more durable and easy to work with. This makes them good materials for many things, from jewelry to decorations.

One important thing that makes them useful and appealing in many hobbies and artistic projects is that they all have this one trait in common.

Conductivity – Jade and serpentine have low electrical conductivity

A perfect square-shaped jade cabochon with a smooth and polished surface
Jade photo provided by GaiaHandCarved

When it comes to electrical conductivity, which is a trait that describes how well a material can carry electricity, serpentine and jade are similar. As is the case with most silicate minerals, these two minerals don’t conduct energy very well.

Their low conductivity is mostly because they are solid and the chemical bonds inside them are not very strong.

Adding hydrated magnesium silicate to serpentine along with other elements like iron or chromium doesn’t make it much better at conducting electricity.

With its tightly bound atoms and lack of free electrons, serpentine’s molecular structure makes it hard for electricity to move. Because of this, serpentine is an insulator instead of a conductor, and this is true for all types of serpentine rocks.

Also, jade, which is made up of nephrite and jadeite, doesn’t carry electricity well. Nephrite and jadeite are both made up of silicate structures that are very close together.

This makes it hard for electrical charges to move. The fact that they don’t contain any metallic parts that could help electricity flow also makes them non-conductive.

Because it doesn’t conduct electricity well, jade has been used in the past in some culture artifacts, where its ability to keep heat in may have been valued.

The fact that serpentine and jade are both electrically conductive is due to the way minerals are naturally formed.

The fact that they don’t conduct electricity well changes how they are used and treated, especially when electrical properties are important.

One important thing that both materials have in common is that they don’t let electricity flow through them. This makes them different from rocks that might contain metal ions or have different building blocks that let electricity flow.

Fluorescence – Serpentine and jade both don’t exhibit fluorescence

An elegant serpentine cabochon with a unique branch-like surface pattern
Serpentine photo provided by GemForJewelry

This is because both serpentine and jade can glow, which means they can give off light when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. In general, serpentine and jade have little to no glow when exposed to UV light.

This is because of how their chemicals are made up and the kinds of impurities that are in the rocks.

Serpentine doesn’t usually glow because it’s mostly made up of hydrated magnesium silicate. The structure of the mineral and the elements it has don’t usually give off noticeable light when UV light hits them.

Some types of serpentine may have a weak fluorescence once in a while, but this is not a common or defining feature of the material.

This lack of fluorescence in serpentine is the same in all of its different types, no matter what impurities or minor elements are present.

Both nephrite and jadeite, which are both types of jade, usually have weak or no light. Nephrite is made up of calcium magnesium silicate, and jadeite is made up of sodium aluminum silicate.

Neither of these minerals is good for strong light. A small amount of manganese or chromium can cause some jadeite to have weak fluorescence, but this is not a common or stable trait.

When fluorescence is present in jade, it’s generally not very noticeable and isn’t used to identify or value the stone.

Another thing that these two minerals have in common is that their glow is weak or nonexistent. Gemologists use this trait to identify and study gemstones because fluorescence can tell them about a mineral’s make-up and where it comes from.

But when it comes to serpentine and jade, they both don’t have strong light, which makes sense given the minerals they are made of.

Location – Jade and serpentine can be found all over the world

A bright green jade stone
Jade photo provided  by Featureshandmade

Many places in the world have serpentine and jade. You can find both of these gems in these great rockhounding location.

Serpentine is usually found in places where there has been tectonic action, especially where oceanic crust has been pushed up onto continental plates.

Because these geological conditions are typical, serpentine deposits can be found in a lot of places.

The United States, especially in California and the Appalachians, Italy, especially in the Liguria area, and New Zealand are all well-known places for serpentine. Geological formations in these places are known for having a lot of serpentines.

Nephrite and jadeite, which are both types of jade, can also be found in many places around the world. There are important nephrite sources in Canada, mostly in British Columbia, as well as in New Zealand, Russia, and China.

Because jadeite is less common, it comes from fewer but more important places. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is the most famous of these places. Guatemala and Japan are two other places where jadeite can be found.

The fact that serpentine and jade can be found all over the world shows that they formed in a variety of geological settings.

Because they are available so often, people from many countries and civilizations can access them, which adds to their historical and cultural importance.

Even though serpentine and jade come from different types of rocks, they are both found in many of the same places around the world. This is one way that they are alike: they are used all over the world and have a long history.

Streak – Serpentine and jade both have white streaks

A wonderful polished and tumbled serpentine stone with a unique pattern
Serpentine photo provided by MyBitsAndBobs

It’s easy to see that serpentine and jade are very similar in terms of their streak, which is the color of a crystal when it is powdered.

If you scratch these minerals against a porcelain plate, which is a popular way to figure out what they are, they will usually leave a white streak.

Even though serpentine can be green, black, or any other color on the outside, the line is always white. Because the serpentine group is mostly made up of hydrated magnesium silicate, this is a trait of the mineral that makes it recognizable.

Different types of serpentine all have the same white streak, even if the outside color changes because of impurities or trace elements in the material.

Also, both nephrite and jadeite, which are both types of jade, leave a white line. When you do the streak test on jade, it always comes out white, even if the outside color is something other than green, red, or even black.

This is true for both nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is a calcium magnesium silicate, and jadeite is a sodium aluminum silicate.

Because it leaves a white streak, jade can be easily told apart from other minerals that might look similar but have a different colored line.

The white line that runs through both serpentine and jade is a useful feature for mineral identification, especially when trying to tell these minerals apart from others that look similar.

The streak test is a quick and easy way to be sure that these minerals are what they say they are, showing that they share a trait even though they are very different.

The Easiest Ways To Tell Serpentine and Jade Apart

Polished and tumbled serpentine and jade gemstones
Serpentine on the right and Jade on the left

You should know the difference between serpentine and jsde if you want to buy one. You can tell them apart in a number of ways.

Feel their weight and texture

Jade, especially jadeite, is denser and heavier when you hold it. This means that if you have a piece of jade and a piece of serpentine of about the same size, the jade will feel heavier.

Jade is also very tough and hard, making it difficult to scratch. You can test this by gently trying to scratch the surface with something like a steel knife; jade will typically resist scratching better than serpentine.

Examine their appearance

Serpentine usually has a waxy or silky look and often shows patterns like waves or spots. Its colors can range from white to different shades of green, and sometimes even black.

These patterns and colors make serpentine quite distinctive. On the other hand, jade, which can be either nephrite or jadeite, has a more smooth and even appearance.

Jade is famous for its beautiful green colors, but it can also be white, red, orange, or even purple. The colors in jade are usually more uniform compared to the varied patterns found in serpentine.

Check for fluorescence

Both serpentine and jade usually don’t glow under UV light, but sometimes jadeite can show a little bit of fluorescence. However, this method might not be the most reliable for everyone since it requires a special light.

About Keith Jackson - Geologist

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He is an active Geologist with a wealth of experience and information from across the country that he loves to share with the Rock Chasing crew.

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