As a general rule, people know about natural granite surfaces. Familiarity with this material results in people specifically asking for it to be installed in the project. Another material that is available and perhaps not as well known as granite is serpentine. In this article we are going to take a look at these materials. We will explore the properties of each of these materials as well as how the materials compare to one another.
Brief Overview of Serpentine
Let's first take a look at serpentine. What is it? Is everything called serpentine the same thing?
When it comes to the material that is often times referred to as "serpentine", the naming at times can be misleading. One reason for this is that the term itself actually does not refer to a stone. Rather, it refers to a group of minerals. However, stone that is composed largely of these minerals is actually called "serpentinite", geologically speaking. So in the commercial stone industry, the "-ite" in "serpentinite" is truncated and the stone itself gets called serpentine instead of serpentinite. So that is a very basic explanation of what serpentine is. A more in depth explanation of this material can be seen
here But is that the only thing that makes understanding the names a challenge?
Another reason that the naming of serpentine can be misleading is that some serpentine is called "green marble". Marble, is actually stone that is made up primarily of calcium carbonate (a.k.a. calcite). So it is easy to see then that serpentine and marble are two different materials geologically speaking; one consisting of a mixture of serpentine minerals and the other consisting mainly of calcium carbonate. Nonetheless, some serpentine is called green marble. As you can see, figuring out what stone is serpentine what stone is not can be a challenge.
As we mentioned in the introduction, natural granite is a term that many have heard of at some point. Yet, this name too gets applied to materials that are technically not "granite", geologically speaking. As a general rule, when the commercial stone industry calls something granite, it means that the properties of the stone are the same as those of geologic granite. Thus, some natural stone such as gneiss and others get called "granite" because the properties are the same from a practical standpoint.
Similarities Between Serpentine & Granite
Since serpentine and granite are both natural stone materials and they form through natural processes, they share some properties. Let's briefly look at some of these similarities here.
Virtually all natural stone is porous to some degree. In other words, stone that forms naturally is absorbent. Every natural stone shares this property. An exception to this rule is
natural soapstone, but practically speaking, natural stone is porous and absorbs liquid to some extent.
Since both serpentine and granite are natural stone materials, they both are porous. How porous? Well, that depends on some variables. Various grades of stone (that is, stone quality) are sold in the industry. The grade of stone being considered is usually indicative of the porosity as well as other traits. Both serpentine and granite vary in density and absorption. For example then, if you compare two slabs of serpentine, you can in fact find that one slab may be more porous than another. The same goes for granite.
Another commonality between serpentine and granite is that both of these materials form at various hardnesses. Stone's hardness is measured by rating it on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Both of the materials we are here considering, range in their hardness. Again, this is because of the way these materials form in nature. The mineral content affects the hardness and since the mineral content varies, the hardness ranges in hardness.
Care and Maintenance
The final area of similarity that we will look at in this part of the article is the care and maintenance of these materials. For the most part, the care of natural stone can be successfully accomplished by following a three-part maintenance program. This plan involves the following three-aspects:
Regular daily cleaning using a pH neutral cleaner.
Periodic application of stone sealer designed to repel water and oil-based liquids.
When needed, stain remover(s) designed to treat the specific stain in question.
Serpentine and Granite Differences
Even though there are similarities between serpentine and granite, it does not mean that they are without their differences. In fact, even within the similarities there are differences.
Differences in Color Selection
This first difference between serpentine and granite that we will look at is the availability of colors. Granite forms in a wide variety of colors. In fact, you find natural granite stone in white, black, brown, red, etc. The specific shades vary and the patterns make each and every stone slab different from every other one. But the color selection is large.
Serpentine on the other hand comes in any color, as long as it's green. As its name implies, the colors of serpentine are limited to the green hue. Serpentine is anywhere from a bright, vibrant green (like an iguana) to a deep, dark green (like an alligator). And there you have the first difference; color selection. Granite equals many colors and serpentine strictly green.
Differences in Hardness
At this point you may be thinking, "Wait! You said that these materials were similar in hardness. now you are saying it is a difference? What gives?" It is true, we talked about the fact that one similarity between these materials is that the hardness varies. And that is a true statement. But the difference lies in the ranges of hardness. As a general rule, serpentine is not as hard as granite. But, theoretically you could have a serpentine slab that is the same hardness as a granite slab. Why is that? Well, the range of serpentine's hardness on the Mohs scale is 3-6. The hardness of granite? 6-7. So,
even though both materials vary in hardness, they differ in how hard they are.
As we have seen in this article comparing serpentine with granite, they have similarities and differences as well. The similarities stem from the fact that each is a natural stone. The differences, from the mineral content. In the end though, it will be up to the one for whom you install the stone as to which is the right one for the project.