Found in many deposits throughout Zimbabwe its colours vary from black to green, orange and variegated. Hardness levels vary from very soft to very hard. Measured on a moss scale where a diamond is 10, serpentine goes from 1.2 up to 6.54. Black Iron Serpentine derives it’s name from the deposits of iron found in it and is one of the hardest and darkest stones found in Zimbabwe. It has the most amazing black lustress finish that resembles the black opal and is highly sought after because of its fine finish, durability and hardness. The majority of sculptors today, do not carve from soft serpentine, but rather select deposits of rock that are hard and therefore more durable.
A very hard form of serpentine with high iron content and a fine texture, no cleavages, hard and firm offering a good resistance to the sculptor. Springstone has a rich outer “blanket” of reddish brown oxide rock. They emerge from the quarry like sculptures created by the nature millions of years ago and are often a source of inspiration to the artist. There are a few mines where the stone is found. Guruve in the north is where springstone is mined. A beautiful dark stone, it polishes to high shine because of its density. As with most stones that are mined for this purpose of sculpting, this stone is mined by hand on communal lands. Springstone is rated 6.54 where a diamond is 10.
A beautiful light greenish serpentine. Opalstone is a very hard stone finely textured with an almost translucent surface, sometimes specked with red, orange and bluish dots and patches. Opalstone is famous for it’s milky light coloured greens and smooth texture. It is also unique in that it has fewer colour variations that serpentine. It was only discovered in 1989 in the Chiweshe area, 2 hours north of Harare. Opal stone polishes to high finish. It at times, has a brown colour throughout the predominate green. Lemon opalstone is easily identified by contrasting yellow striations within the stone. Opalstone rates between 5.0-5.5.
A beautiful coloured stone with spock marks of yellow and black similar to a leopard, hence the name. These are inclusions of the ferromagnesian mineral, olivine. Leopard rock is an olivine rich serpentine (geologically known as dunite) which forms part of a serpentine complex 2.6 billion years old.
A beautiful stone often purple in colouration with a variation of yellow and white markings and stripes through. At times contains some brown/orange markings. Cobalt is a brittle, relatively rare hard metal, closely resembling iron and nickel in appearance. It has a hardness of between 5 and 6 on Moh’s scale.
Bbutterjade has a cream yellow colour with dark striations throughout and is sometimes known as butterstone. Although it is called “jade”, it is however not a true jade. The striations found in the attractive yellow-green sedimentary rock are actually layers containing fissilized algae. The stone is 50 million years old and has a hardness of between 6 and 7.
Limestone is a very common sedimentary rock of biochemical origin. It is composed mostly of the mineral calcite. Sometimes it is almost pure calcite, but most limestones are filled with lots of other minerals and sand and they are called dirty limestones. The calcite is derived mostly from the remains of organisms such as clams, brachiopods, bryozoa, crinoids and corals. These animals live on the bottom of the sea and when they die their shells accumulate into piles of shelly debris. This debris can then form beds of limestone. Some limestones may have been derived from non-biogenic calcite formation. Although some limestones can be nearly pure calcite, there is often a large amount or sand or silt that is included in the shelly debris.
The artist works together with his stone and it is believed that “nothing which exists naturally is inanimated”. It has a spirit and life of its own. One is always aware of the stone’s contribution in the finished sculpture. It is indeed fortunate that in Zimbabwe a magnificent range of stones are available from which to choose from.
THE STORY OF VERDITE
The green stone of Africa- a semiprecious stone over 3500 million years old. This is a challenging medium for sculptors. Ancient tribesmen crafted Verdite into jewellery and witch doctors made a preparation form from the powdered stone which they believed increased fertility. Rare and beautiful, Verdite occurs in a variety of changing patterns and shades raging from golden browns to rich emerald greens and blues. In the knowledge that Verdite is only found in Southern Africa and noting in particular that Zimbabwe Verdite is of a uniquely high quality, it is being sort after by international art collectors and investors who have been quick to recognise it as rare and intrinsically aluable material. Because they is only one known deposit in Zimbabwe and no other deposit of comparable quality anywhere in the world, Verdite art works have the double attraction of beauty and intrinsic value. Because it is a quickly diminishing resource the passage of time can only enhance this attraction. Zimbabwe Verdite contains Ruby Corundum and is known as ”Ruby Verdite” and is therefore considered to be a semiprecious stone. Verdite- a thing of beauty and a genuine investment.