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Serpentine and Green Stone

Green is a popular color in bathroom and kitchen design today. Shades of green which range from yellow, to black, to turquoise blue allow homeowners the flexibility of a color pallet, without the drab neutral of beige. Green marbles and other green natural stones are popular with many homeowners for their rich, deep colors, veining and surprising durability. Many homeowners may be surprised to discover that these green stones are not marble at all, but are in fact part of the serpentine family.

What is Serpentine?

Serpentine received its name from the scaly surface and dark green color of the stones it produces. The serpentine group of stones actually refers to up to 20 different varieties of rock comprised of different minerals. The vast majority of serpentine stones contain magnesium, iron and phyllosilicate although some stones may contain calcite or talc. These metamorphic stones are what are commonly referred to as green marble and green soapstone, respectively.

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The Properties of Green Marbles

While there are a few true, green marbles mined in Italy, all green stones referred to as “green marble” will contain some amount of serpentine, which is what gives the stone its green color. These stones include but are not limited to, Verde Mare, Verde Sultan, Verde Quetzal, Ming Green and Moss Green.

Serpentine is inherently scaly and flaky in appearance, which can lead to some difficulties with installation of green marble and other green stones. While this scaly appearance may not be noticeable on a polished or honed stone, expect in certain lights, some stones such as Ming Green will exhibit an extreme tendency to flake or “spall” when the stone has been tumbled.

All green marbles when installed with a water based mortar or mastic will begin to spall and curl as the mortar dries. This is due to the stone absorbing the water from the thinset, and the minerals in the water reacting to the minerals within the serpentine, causing them to contract and begin to slough off.

To prevent this from happening, all green marbles and green stones need to be installed with an epoxy based mortar and allowed to “cure” for several days prior to grouting. Once installed properly, the marble can be sealed, color enhanced and subjected to normal use.

Green stone, with its high concentration of serpentine minerals is signifcantly less porous, and much denser than other marbles. This means that green marble can be installed on kitchen islands and other areas that will subjected to frequent use, heavy traffic, spills and abrasives.

Designing with Green Marble

Green marbles are extremely popular with homeowners who appreciate the rich look of marble, but want a versatile colored stone. Deep green marbles, such as Verde Mare or Verde Sultan, are nearly black in color, but have yellow undertones that make them pair well with golds, yellows and creams. Homeowners who wish to have an elegant, marble entryway, but feel that a traditional black and white floor would be too cold or sterile, can use a deep green marble on the floor with gold colored walls to give the foyer a welcoming and warm appearance to the room, while retaining its elegance.

Lighter green marbles, with bluer undertones such as Verde Quetzal can be paired with yellows, blues, turquoises or whites, giving homeowners the flexibility of repainting walls and changing the appearance of a bathroom frequently.

Highly varied green marbles such as Moss Green or Ming Green can compliment yellows, greens, whites or tans depending on the lot used, and can give a room an eclectic appearance. Look for stones which vary widely from piece to piece and within one piece to give a modern, updated appearance to any room, while still retaining the rich look of marble.

Be sure to use a qualified installer when utilizing green marbles to prevent spalling or curling after installation. For varied stones, request photos of current lots from suppliers to be sure that the range of the stone in question is acceptable, as the stones can vary widely from what is on display in show rooms.

Use green marble anywhere in the home that other stones would be installed for a rich, durable and elegant appearance that can compliment any home design.

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