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Serpentine: California’s State Rock

This article was featured in the 5/17/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Serpentine: California’s State Rock

Serpentine. Photo by Tiia Monto.

Serpentine: California’s State Rock


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


Although the state mineral is native gold, the official state rock for California is Serpentine.  Serpentine isn’t a single type of rock, but rather a suite of minerals, often called the serpentine subgroup.  Minerals in the serpentine subgroup are usually green or brown, but can also be black, yellow, or white.  It is believed the common green color is what inspired the name, serpentine, being a similar color and texture to that of a snake.


The metamorphic rock serpentinite is made up primarily of minerals in the serpentine subgroup.  Serpentinites are found primarily at tectonic plate boundaries, which California has an extensive history of being a part of.


Some serpentine minerals have smooth textures and can be polished to a very nice shine.  With a Mohs hardness between 3-6, they are easily cut and shaped and can be formed into gemstones for jewelry, used as accents for decorative pieces or ornamentations, or made into countertops.  Another industrial use for serpentines is asbestos.  Many minerals in the serpentine subgroup have a fibrous structure that is heat resistant and thus is used as asbestos insulation.


Because of its abundance, and its many industrial uses, serpentine was considered an economic importance to California.  This resulted in serpentine being named the official California state rock in 1965, with native gold taking the title of official state mineral.


Although asbestos has had some major health concerns come to light, serpentine is still a very attractive rock and continues to have a variety of uses.  Stop by Explorit during our public hours and safely view serpentine minerals and serpentinites in our Earth Explorations gallery, as well as a variety of other great mineral and rock specimens.


Explorit's coming events:

·      NEW THIS SUMMER-Check out the new evening teen camp July 8 – 12 "The Stars and Our Night Sky" for ages 12-16 yrs. Learn about the stars, planets, moons, black holes and other phenomenon in the sky. Explore the use of various telescopes and learn to identify stars and planets.




Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or "like" us on Facebook at

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