The serpentine subgroup is a group of phyllosilicates (sheet silicates) including lizardite, chrysotile and antigorite. These three minerals all have the same formula, Mg3Si2O5(OH)4, but different structures, ie they are paramorphs of each other.

Metamorphic environments

Serpentine is a common mineral and widely distributed, frequently in disseminated particles, in places in such quantity as to make up practically the entire rock mass.
It may be found in kimberlite and skarn.
It is usually formed by alteration of magnesium silicates, especially olivine, pyroxene and amphibole.
It is frequently associated with magnesite, chromite, and magnetite.


The Ma On Shan Mine, Ma On Shan, Sha Tin District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, is an abandoned iron mine, with both underground and open cast workings. The iron ores contain magnetite as the ore mineral and occur predominantly as masses of all sizes enclosed in a large skarn body formed by contact metasomatism of dolomitic limestone at the margins of a granite intrusion. In parts of the underground workings magnetite is also found in marble in contact with the granite. The skarn rocks consist mainly of tremolite, actinolite, diopside and garnet.
Serpentine is commonly found as veins cutting the skarn rocks; the veins consist of parallel layers of serpentine, and also other minerals including fluorite, calcite and quartz
(Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)


cummingtonite-grunerite (amphibole) and H2O to serpentine and quartz
6(Fe,Mg)7Si8O22(OH)2 + 22H2O ⇌ 7(Fe,Mg)6Si4O10(OH)8 + 20SiO2
(DHZ 2A p138)

enstatite and H2O to serpentine and talc
3Mg2Si2O6 + 3H2O → Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + Mg3Si4O10(OH)2
Talc may occur as a pseudomorph after enstatite by the above reaction (DHZ 3 p185).

enstatite-ferrosilite (pyroxene) and H2O to serpentine and quartz
6(Mg,Fe2+)SiO3 + 4H2O ⇌ (Fe,Mg)6Si4O10(OH)8 +2SiO2
(DHZ p138)

forsterite and H2O to serpentine and brucite
2Mg2SiO4 + 3H2O ⇌ Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + Mg(OH)2
The forward reaction is highly exothermic. At 5 kbar pressure the equilibrium temperature is about 420°C (greenschist facies) (WJ).

forsterite, SiO3 and H2O to serpentine
3Mg2SiO4 + SiO2 + 4H2O → 2Mg3Si2O5 (OH)4
This reaction is highly exothermic (Wiki Serpentinite).

forsterite, enstatite and H2O to serpentine
2Mg2SiO4 + Mg2Si2O6 + 4H2O → 2Mg3Si2O5(OH)4
Serpentine (chrysotile) is not stable in the presence of carbon dioxide, and may further react with it to form talc and magnesite (R&M 90.6.521).

forsterite, fayalite, H2O and CO2 to serpentine, magnetite and methane
18 Mg2SiO4 + 6Fe2SiO4 + 26H2O + CO2 → 12Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 4Fe3O4 + CH4

olivine and H2O to serpentine, magnetite and H2
6(Mg1.5Fe0.5)SiO4 + 7H2O → 3Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + Fe2+Fe3+2O4 + H2
The iron Fe in olivine does not enter into the serpentine, but recrystallises as magnetite (R&M 90.6.521).

serpentine to forsterite, talc and H2O
5Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 ⇌ 6Mg2SiO4 + Mg3Si4O10(OH)2 + 9H2O
At a pressure of 10 kbar the equilibrium temperature is about 600oC. Increasing temperature favours the forward reaction (SERC).

serpentine (chrysotile) and CO2 to talc, magnesite and H2O
2Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 3CO2 → Mg3Si4O10(OH)2 + 3MgCO3 + 3H2O
Serpentine (chrysotile) is not stable in the presence of carbon dioxide and reacts with it according to the above equation (R&M 90.6.521).

serpentine, aegirine and quartz to magnesio-riebeckite and H2O
Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 2NaFe3+Si2O6 + 2SiO2 → Na2(Mg3Fe3+2)Si8O22(OH)2 + H2O
(DHZ 2A p511)

serpentine and brucite to forsterite and H2O
Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + Mg(OH)2 → 2Mg2SiO4 + 3H2O
This reaction can proceed in either direction, depending on the external conditions. Early formation of forsterite (DHZ 1A p259).

serpentine and diopside to tremolite, forsterite and H2O
5Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 2CaMgSi2O6 ⇌ Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2 + 6Mg2SiO4 + 9H2O + H2O
In lower grade assemblages associated with contact and regional metamorphism serpentine may form tremolite and forsterite according to the above reaction (DHZ 2A p271).

serpentine and diopside to tremolite, forsterite and H2O
5Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 2CaMgSi2O6 = Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2 + 6Mg2SiO4 + 9H2O
(DHZ 2A p271)

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