How to Identify Common Green Rocks and Minerals

Green or greenish rocks get their color from minerals that contain iron or chromium and sometimes manganese. By studying a green rock's grain, color and texture, you can easily identify many of them. This list will help you identify the most significant green minerals, along with notable geological characteristics, including luster and hardness.  

Be sure you're looking at a fresh surface. Don't let a coat of green algae fool you. If your green or greenish mineral doesn't fit one of these, there are many more possibilities.

01
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Chlorite
James St. John / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The most widespread green mineral, chlorite is rarely present by itself. In microscopic form, chlorite gives a dull olive-green color to a wide range of metamorphic rocks from slate and phyllite to schist. It small clusters can also be seen by the naked eye. Although it appears to have a flaky structure like mica, it gleams rather than sparkles and doesn't split into flexible sheets.

Pearly luster; hardness of 2 to 2.5 More »

02
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Actinolite
© Andrew Alden

This is a shiny medium-green silicate mineral with long, thin crystals. You'll find it in metamorphic rocks like marble or greenstone. Its greenish color is derived from iron. A white variety, which does not contain iron, is called tremolite. Jade is a type of actinolite. 

Glassy to pearly luster; hardness of 5 to 6. More »

03
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Epidote
DEA / PHOTO 1 / Getty Images

Epidote is common in medium-grade metamorphic rocks as well as late-stage igneous rocks such as pegmatites. It ranges in color from yellow-green to green-black to black, depending on its iron content. Epidote is occasionally used as a gemstone.

Luster dull to pearly; hardness 6–7. More »

04
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Glauconite
Glauconite in greensand. USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Glauconite is most commonly found in greenish marine sandstones and greensands. It's a mica mineral, but because it forms by alteration of other micas it never makes crystals. Instead, it typically appears as bands of blue-green in a rock. With a relatively high potassium content, it is used in fertilizer as well as to tint artistic paints. 

Dull luster; hardness of 2. More »

Jadeite
Christophe Lehenaff / Getty Images

Two minerals, jadeite and nephrite, are recognized as true jade. Both occur where serpentinite is found but form at higher pressures and temperatures. It typically ranges from pale to deep green, but less common varieties can be found in lavender or blue-green. They are both commonly used as gemstones.

Nephrite (a microcrystalline form of actinolite) has a hardness of 5–6; jadeite (a sodium pyroxene mineral) has a hardness of 6½–7. More »

06
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Olivine
Scientifica / Getty Images

Dark primary igneous rocks (basalt, gabbro and so on) are the exclusive home of olivine. It's usually found in small, clear olive-green grains and stubby crystals. A rock made entirely of olivine is called dunite. Olivine is most commonly found below the earth's surface. It gives the rock peridotite its name, peridot being the gem variety of olivine.

Glassy luster; hardness of 6.5 to 7. More »

07
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Prehnite
Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

This mineral is a silicate derived from calcium and aluminum. It frequently can be found in botryoidal clusters along with pockets of zeolite minerals. Prehnite has a light bottle-green color and is translucent; it is frequently used as a gemstone. 

Glassy luster; hardness of 6 to 6.5. More »

08
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Serpentine
J Brew / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Serpentine is a metamorphic mineral that occurs in some marbles but more often found by itself in serpentinite. It typically occurs in shiny, streamlined forms, asbestos fibers being the most notable exception. Its color ranges from white to black but is mostly dark olive-green. The presence of serpentine is often evidence of prehistoric deep-sea lavas that have been altered by hydrothermal activity.

Greasy luster; hardness of 2 to 5. More »

09
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Other Green Minerals

Mariposite
Mariposite. Yath / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Several other minerals are typically green, but they aren't widespread and are quite distinctive. These include chrysocolla, diopside, dioptase, fuchsite, several of the garnets, malachitephengite and variscite. You'll see them in rock shops and mineral shows more than in the field.