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You are on Gem Animals Page 10

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Contents: Jade article   

Info on Jade from British Columbia, Canada

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Here's the location of this awesome Polar Jade mine in British Columbia, Canada, 25 air miles east of Dease Lake, and a photo of the mine.

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Here's pictures of the size of jade boulders being cut, and the 72" diamond saw they use to cut them!  This nephrite jade is harder than any other yet found, and extremely popular for carving.  The owner of the mine has sold over 2400 tons of the 4000 tons he's mined.   Pieces like the above are shipped to China, where they are carved and shipped back here as "Made in China"!  This is top quality nephrite jade gemstone.  British Columbia used to be under water, where calcium merged with serpentine, and pressure & heat from the depths of the ocean to create this jade.  There is enough jade in these Kutcho mountains to supply global needs for hundreds of years.

Stay tuned for jade carvings we will add after our next Alaska trip!



If you've handled jade, you know the distinctive waxy feel of this gemstone unlike any other.  The translucent look and the variety of colors makes it an ever-interesting gem to collect.

The first use of jade goes back thousands of years in China, Mexico and New Zealand.  "Jade" is a generic term, not the technical name of a mineral.  In fact, the Chinese called anything worth carving as "yu", including nephrite, jadeite, serpentine, bowenite, marble or even soapstone.  The artistry was emphasized rather than the particular gemstone.  Later the Europeans decided to call the Chinese carvings  "jade".

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Most is "NEPHRITE  jade" and not particularly rare, as it's even found in Alaska and Canada in abundance as you can see in the above pictures of the jade mine in British Columbia.  Gigantic "Monterey Jade" or "Big Sur Jade" boulders exist off the coast of California near those towns, for instance. 


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Our Specimen of Big Sur Jade...okay okay so it's not a BOULDER, it's all we've GOT...deal with it!


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Monterey or Big Sur Jade off the California coast.  The book about harvesting huge boulders from the sea is in the book "Jade Beneath the Sea - a Diving Adventure" by Don Wobber.

Nephrite is an intertwining parallel formation of two fibrous crystal minerals - actinolite & tremolite which makes this rock extremely tough.  It can be nearly white if the maganese mineral actinolite dominates, or if it contains more iron, green, gray or black prevails.  It is formed deep in the Earth's crust under intense heat and pressure - for instance, New Zealand's nephrite deposits formed from a collision between the Pacific floor plate and the Australian plate.  Nephrite can be carved so thin as to be nearly transparent.


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Some of the colors of Nephrite Jade.

China's nephrite jade dates back to 7000 B.C. where two rivers (the Black Jade River and the White Jade River) carried jade down its length from the Kunlun Mountains, where it was collected and carried thousands of miles on the "Jade Road", now the Silk Road, to the cities where the carvers resided.  Once the surface and river  jade was depleted, a 20-40 foot zone of horneblende schist and gneiss was discovered on the slopes of the Kunlun Mountains.  

It is so hard that hammers just bounce off of it, so a fire was built against it, then the heated rock was dashed with water or vinegar to fracture it so chunks could be pried loose, then the processed repeated over and over.  

Only nephrite jade was found and used up to the 1600's A.D., when the Burmese jadeite was discovered.

Much less common is "JADEITE", and Burma was the early prime source of this beautiful rock for China.  "JADEITE" is a mineral composed of sodium, iron and aluminum silicate.  

Presence of chromium ions causes green jadeite's color, the finest green known as "Imperial Jade", though equally lovely are the hues of mauve, pink, orange, red and yellow, even black.  It is tough because of interlocking grains rather than crystals.  

It is also formed under intense heat and pressure (the Burmese jadeite comes from the Uru Valley, close by the collision zone between the India and Asian crustal plates).  

The appearance of Jadeite on the market at hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars a carat reduced nephrite jade down to a few dollars a pound.  

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A lovely carving of Jadeite.

Another early source of Jadeite was Guatemala - ancient Olmec civilizations made large quantities of carvings in this translucent, high quality jadeite, the source of which was lost until 1998, when a hurricane caused landslides that uncovered veins and boulders of it.   Some has reached the marketplace, and we expect to see much more of this lovely gem available as time goes on.

Olmec Jadeite carving

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) described the "virtues of jade" that increased its popularity even more, such virtues transferring to the person that wears jade.  Its toughness transmits intelligence, the ringing sound that jade makes when struck grants the owner wisdom, jade's color denotes loyalty, white being the purest of all virtues.  The shape of a disc represented Heaven and Earth.  It is also considered an important burial item, credited with "qi", the body's life force for the afterlife.  Traditionally, every body opening was plugged with jade in some way at burial to implement this.

No matter where you are in the world, jade (nephrite or jadeite) is a well loved and appreciated gemstone, whether it is worn as jewelry, appreciated as an intricately carved piece of art, handled for its "virtues", or carried in a pocket as a good luck piece.  Everyone should own their own bit of jade.

More specimens of slabs of jade on Rocks, page 9.


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