»Silver Eye« serpentinite with silvery chrysotile asbestos fibers

Image: K. Sieber,

The green gemrock »Silver Eye« consists of the minerals chrysotile and antigorite, both belonging to the serpentine group. In alternating layers they form a serpentinite rock, in which chrysotile forms silvery shining fibers, so-called chrysotile asbestos.  In the »Silver Eye« serpentinite, the fibers are arranged to produce a cat's eye effect (chatoyance).

Chrysotile is also known as fiber serpentine. Fiber serpentine was widely used as a material for the asbestos industry in the middle of the last century. Due to the health hazards posed by asbestos, its use as a material is now banned.


Are gemrocks containing asbestos a danger for the customer?

The dangers of asbestos-containing materials have become increasingly clear in recent decades. The hazard potential of »Silver Eye« serpentine is the same as for eternit sheets, brake linings and heating stoves: Released asbestos needles can enter the respiratory tract and trigger lung cancer / asbestiosis. So much for the scientific findings.

In practice, the chance of an owner getting an asbestos-related disease from normal handling of polished »Silver Eye« serpentinite is very small. Usually tumbled stones or drilled jewelry are coated with a wax finish to increase the surface shine. At the latest, this protective coating prevents asbestos fibers bound in the stone from being released. So there is no danger for traders and customers in handling the said minerals. No special labeling is required.

The main risk clearly lies in the processing of the raw material. Before we enjoy the gemstone, it is broken, shaped, sawed, polished and drilled. These operations release significantly amonts of asbestos fibers.


The potential danger of »Silver Eye« serpentinite lies not in the finished product, but rather in the manufacturing process by humans who are exposed to the released asbestos fibers without protection.