Serpentine used in Native American Fetish Carvings

When we buy Zuni and Navajo fetish carvings and aren’t positive about the stone used, we ask and are often told “serpentine”. You might think that is a catch-all category but when you really look into it, you’ll find that serpentine comes in a wide variety of colors. It is one of the oldest stones used for carving, as early as prehistoric times.

Serpentine can range from green to pink and everything in between including tan, brown, red, black, yellow, gray and more.

A very popular and traditional stone “fish rock” is actually serpentine. It is a light stone usually with small splotches and veining.  Here are some examples of fish rock serpentine.

FH261-fishrock-shack-2

FC306-badger-fishrock-yazzie-3

Ricolite is another serpentine that is dark green with grey or light green bands.F240-frog-serpentine-lementino-1

F238-frog-serpentine-poncho-1

Here are some other examples of serpentine.

FT245-buffalo-serpentine-bird-laiwakete-1

FC276-lion-serpentine-davis-1

FC287-coyote-serpentine-siutza-1

F282-lizard-kallestewa-1

Serpentine is widespread in California where it is the state rock. Here is a photo of serpentine along a beach.

bigserpentine800To read more about serpentine and see more examples, click here.

Here is an interesting glossary Gemstone Terminology

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Serpentine – A Very Popular Stone for Native American Fetish Carvings

Serpentine
serpentine horse carvingThe state rock of California, serpentine is a gemrock with wide diversity in color and character, from green to yellow, with browns, black and whites. It can be bi-colored, streaked, mottled, banded or spotted and it has a slippery, snake-like surface (hence the name). It is composed of several minerals including minor amounts of chrysotile a somewhat benign form of asbestos.

In the rock industry the scientific term “marble” is also applied to serpentine rocks that can be polished to a high shine. But , technically, “marble” and “serpentine” are two different rocks. Scientific terms (in this case “marble”) can have a different meaning in industry. Dark green serpentine “marble” is frequently referred to as verde antique.

It is said to help one find inner peace, calmness, and a long life; instills in the bearer a respect for the elderly and wards off snake bites.

Although this bear looks like he was carved from wood, he is a serpentine bear!

Serpentine Bear Fetish by Zuni Carver Travis Panteah

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