OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895


Founded 24 January 1895
Meeting Number 1717
4:00 P.M.
October 6, 2005

“The Lure and Lore of Jade”

Stanley D. Korfmacher M.D.
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library

Summary of Paper

This paper reveals the impact of one of the most beautiful and durable substances on

earth as it affected the civilizations of China, Central Asia, Mesoamerica and New

Zealand over periods of thousands of years. The history, lore, sources and uses of jade

are discussed and the physical and chemical properties of jade and its simulants and

substitutes are presented.


Biography of Author

Stan Korfmacher M.D. FACP was born in Grinnell, Iowa, the only child of an M.D. and R.N. He was active in music, taking up the clarinet at age 10 and in scouting, earning his Eagle Scout award at age 15.

After graduating from Carleton College in 1953 and Northwestern Medical School in 1957, he interned at Swedish Hospital in Seattle and had a three year Fellowship in Internal Medicine “with distinction” at Lahey Clinic in Boston. Stan enlisted in the U.S. Public Health Service and served as Assistant Chief of Medicine at the P.H.S. Hospital in San Francisco. While there he was in charge of the S.F. branch of the P.H.S. Hypertension Study and was a clinical instructor at UCSF Medical School. His other accomplishment at the P.H.S. Hospital was meeting his future wife, Jan, a medical technologist working in heart research. They married in March 1963.

They moved to Redlands October 1963 where Stan began a practice of 31 years at Beaver Medical Clinic. Stan and Jan have 4 children, all products of the Redlands public schools and are all college graduates. Three have advanced degrees and all have good jobs. They also have three grandsons and a granddaughter is due Dec. 2005.

Stan’s interests include mineral collecting and he has exhibited in many shows. He also collects and has exhibited Art Nouveau objects and art glass. Another interest is music and he has played in five orchestras and concert bands over the years. He is a founding member of the 4th of July Band, now in its 25th year. He is a member and past president of Spinet, a past member of the Redlands Symphony and a board member of the Redlands Conservancy.

Other activities include Redlands Cultural Arts Commission for 8 years, serving as chairman for 5, San Bernardino County (now So. Calif.) Medical Museum for 20 years and serves as a docent there. He also enjoys landscaping, gardening, automobiles, and photography.


For over 4000 years the stones called jade have been treasured and revered by every civilization which has found them. Jade has been used for everything from rough tools, blades, plowshares and axes to hunting implements and weapons of war (clubs, spear points, arrow heads,, daggers, swords, battle axes, archer’s rings), to ritual objects used in the rarest and most sacred ceremonies and burial suits for royalty, to wonderfully carved and polished cups, plates, bowls, vases, boxes, figurines, jewelry, and musical instruments (jade bells and bars struck with mallets, flutes, hanging chimes)!

Rich and powerful noblemen used jade as personal adornment. These included belt buckles and “musical stones” on strings worn around the waist to make pleasant sounds as he walked that announced his presence giving servants time to clear his way and assume respectful postures. An equally important purpose was to give people of equal rank the chance to cease gossiping about him, for in China it was a cardinal breach of etiquette to eavesdrop or surprise people by an unannounced appearance. Even in later years a well-bred person would cough repeatedly before entering a room where acquaintances were present. In China, the highest ranking person was the king. He was the temporal ruler and in a religious sense the “son of heaven”. The term emperor was not used until the Ch’in dynasty, 221-207 BC. The Chinese word for king is and for jade representing an object worn by a king. 1

Both ancient and modern Chinese have believed that jade is the essence if the virtues of honesty, loyalty, justice, wisdom, modesty and charity.

But what is jade? In the most ancient Chinese writings, the word yu had the same meaning as jade but included more mineral species in addition to the two, nephrite and jadeite, which we (and most of the modern world) call jade. This resulted from the ancient practice of classifying the kinds of yu by color, place of origin and other characteristics. Li Shih-chen, a 16th century Chinese naturalist, recognized fourteen varieties of jade; for example “frei-tsui”, meaning kingfisher was the name given to a fine green nephrite from Turkistan as it was the color of the bird. Yu also included serpentine, marble and even soapstone, all of which could be nicely carved but do not have the beauty nor durability of jade.

When Marco Polo traveled to the Orient in the late 1200’s and visited Turkistan, he saw nephrite boulders recovered from streambed gravels. He referred to it as jasper, and that remained the name used for jade in Europe for 300 years.

In 1557 the Chinese permitted Portugal to purchase land at the mouth of the Canton River to use as a trade center, and the city of Macao was established. Illicit trade in yu, which was also prized for its healing properties, soon developed. By mere surface application it was thought to prevent and cure kidney and urinary diseases. Meanwhile, Central American jade had been brought home by the Spanish Conquistadors and was called “piedra de hijada” or “piedra de los rinones” (loin stone or kidney stone). There is no evidence the Aztecs used the stone in this way, so apparently Chinese ideas had been appropriated. In 1596, Sir Walter Raleigh, in his official report on “The Discoverie of Guiana” made note of “spleen stone” and “kidney stone” as the New World
Jade was known.

In the 1700’s the Spanish became “piedra de jada” and the French “Pierre de l’ ejade” which became “le jade” and was absorbed into English as “jade”. During this period and before the learned Latin texts all over Europe used “lapis nephriticus” and in 1789 noted German mineralogist A.G. Werner gave the name “nephrite” to Chinese jade.2

But in the late 1700’s a new jade, jadeite, from Burma entered China and captivated the nobility with its new colors, greater translucency and higher polish. The emperor set up a fine new center for carving and polishing this wondrous stone in Peking. The quality and workmanship of this period has never been surpassed.

In 1863 Alexis Damour, a French chemist and mineralogist, published the results of his investigations which showed that jade was actually two mineral species. In his work Damour used several jade carvings looted from the Imperial summer Palace near Peking by English and French armies in 1860 and unusually fine jade objects brought back to Paris from Peking by Count Klaczkorski in 1859 at the star of the rebellion. Damour assigned the existing name nephrite to jade of the early Chinese type and the new name jadeite to Count Klaczkowski’s Chinese jade and also to jade from the New World.

Both jades are quite hard and very tough, meaning not brittle and highly resistant to impact and pressure. The supreme toughness of nephrite is due to its structure of matted, interlocked fibers, much like felt. Nephrite can withstand over 90,000 pounds of pressure per square inch without crumbling.2 Jadeite, nearly as tough and slightly harder is formed of interlocking block like micro-crystals. Both jades also resist chemical attack, but after many centuries of exposure to the elements or chemicals in groundwater the “skin” of jade boulders becomes yellow, orange or brown giving us additional colors. More recently exposed jade found as smooth pebbles and boulders in stream beds does not show this.

Chemically, nephrite is a Ca-Mg-Fe silicate in the tremolite-actimolite series. Jadeite is Na-Fe-Al silicate in the pyroxene group. Both nephrite and jadeite occur in metamorphic rock. Rock formed in the Earth’s crust which has been altered by later heat, pressure, and additional elements in liquids or gasses.

Nephrite is found at borders between dissimilar rocks, in sheets, lenses or nodules. It is also found as boulders and tumbled lumps in stream beds as a survivor, liberated from surrounding rocks destroyed by erosion while it resisted physical and chemical attack for many centuries. Nephrite deposits are often found upstream in rocky cliffs and valley walls.
Jadeite is found similarly, but in sodium-rich altered serpentine and feldspars such as albite. There is only one major source of high quality jadeite in the world, in remote northern Burma or Myanmar in the Uru River valley. Even there, most of the jade is pale green or off-white, but the tiny fraction that is translucent emerald green, fine lavender or pure white cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Other jadeite occurrences include the polar Ural Mountains in Russia and near Lake Baikal in Siberia, Japan, Taiwan, and some islands in the South Pacific. Guatemalan mines were only rediscovered in the 1960’s and 1980’s as the source of Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec archeological jadeite objects. California has several small areas with lower quality jadeite.

Nephrite of high quality is much more abundant. Eastern Turkistan (now Sinkiang province of China) has supplied China for 2000 years. Much of the stone came from the beds of two rivers, the KaraKash (Black Jade River) and the YurungKash (White Jade River) and later from the Kunlun Mountains where the rivers and the jade originated. Khotan, an ancient trading center in an oasis watered by both rivers, was where the camel caravans loaded jade for the 2000 mile trek across the deserts and mountains to China. Large deposits of nephrite are found in Alaska and British Columbia and in the past five years one find in B.C. has yielded the hardest, finest grained, most translucent bright green nephrite ever seen. Until this discovery, the finest nephrite in the western hemisphere came from Wyoming where it was first found in 1936; the black nephrite from there is especially fine. Wyoming also has good greens and unlike most nephrite the best Wyoming jades take a high polish.

California has lower quality green and black nephrite from Jade cove, 70 miles south of Monterey, but the same area also produces botyroidal jade, so named because it resembles clusters of grapes, the only place in the world that this is found. Nephrite jade is also found in Marin County in a rare blue color, and in the Trinity River and also in the gold country near Coulterville.

Russia has large deposits of nephrite jade, some of which was a favorite material of the famous goldsmith, Faberge, who usually used dark green jade. Siberian jade in recent decades is more often translucent apple green with black spots or off-white with bright green areas.

New Zealand produces many varieties of nephrite, some of it with other minerals in aesthetic mixes, and each variety named by the Maori who have worked the jade for centuries.

Australia has become a major jade source since the discovery of fine black nephrite in South Australia on the Eyre Peninsula in the early 1970’s2. This jade is available in large sizes with few flaws and takes a very high polish. It is mined only one month a year to avoid flooding the market!

Paul Desautels, the late curator of gems and minerals for the Smithsonian Institute entitled the jade chapter of his book on gemstones “The Sometimes Green Stone”. This prepared his readers for the beautiful suite of colors seen in jade.

Pure nephrite and pure jadeite are white. Additional iron content produces yellow, orange, red-orange, and brown. Cobalt content produces pink-lavender and blue-gray. In jadeite, chromium replacing some iron produces vivid emerald green, called “imperial jade” when it is translucent. Emeralds are beryl, a beryllium aluminum silicate colored by chromium (and or vanadium) which helps explain the very similar color. When chromium replaces iron entirely the resulting silicate is called ureyite (after chemist Harold Urey) and is a very dark green; it is often found with and even mixed with jadeite but it was first identified in meteorites from Mexico!2 Maw-sit-sit, a green and black jade is a mixture of jadeite and diopside.2 It should be noted that emerald-green near transparent imperial jade is available only in tiny pieces because it occurs only as spots of intense color in white to light green jadeite, hence the astronomical prices.

Of course jade can be treated in many ways. Pale greens and lavenders can be dyed to increase color. Wax or resin can be applied to smooth coarse textured jade. Gray jade can be bleached then dyed. All this is possible because jade is slightly porous, but this also means that magnification will reveal dye between the crystal borders. Many dyes also fade or darken with sunlight or laboratory ultraviolet light, but dyed lavender jade may require more sophisticated testing.

There are many jade substitutes and deceptions. Some of the substitutes are other minerals with very similar properties and deserve respect on their own. Others are much softer, brittle and/or man-made and should be very inexpensive, but deceptively marketed
as fine jade.

Jade Simulants, Substitutes, and Deceptions

The most common jade substitutes are serpentines, a group of magnesium-iron silicates which often occur with or near jadeite deposits. Common serpentine is often green to black. It carves easily and well and is a favorite stone of sculptors; it is much harder than alabaster or soapstone and some is translucent. One variety, bowenite, is harder than other serpentines (5 ½ vs. 4) and is available in translucent yellow-green which is marketed as “Soochow jade”, usually in figurines.

“Transvaal jade” is a massive (i.e. microcrystalline) form of hydroglossular garnet found in South Africa 40 miles west of Pretoria. It is even-textured, hard (a little over 7), quite tough, and carves well. It comes in many greens and even rose but rarely looks like true jade. Many native carvings, some of large size have been done in recent years and called “greenstone”.

Chrysoprase is a chalcedony, a fine-grained quartz, colored by nickel. It is hard, translucent, takes a high polish, and the gems can be very beautiful. It is a legitimate gemstone, but sometimes wrongly called “Australian jade” after a recent discovery of the highest quality material there. Beads and cabochons of the finest material are easily mistaken for fine jade of apple green to imperial green colors.

Californite is a variety of vesuvianite (or idocrase), a calcium-magnesium-aluminum silicate, found in Tulare County and Siskiyou County, California. It is as hard (6 ½) and heavy (S.G. 3 ½) as the true jades and nearly as tough, hence the name “California jade”. It can be creamy green to deep green or green mottled with white, the white being massive grossularite garnet.

Rhodonite, a manganese silicate with up to 20% calcium is a beautiful pink to rose-red mineral with a hardness of 5 ½ to 6 ½, good toughness and good carveability. Though often mottled with black manganese oxides, material with even color is available and sold sometimes as “pink jade” even though very different from the bluish pinks of jadeite.

Thulite is the pink variety of zoisite, a calcium-aluminum silicate with a hardness of 6-7 and fair toughness. This too is sold as “pink jade”. Green zoisite has also been sold as jade.

Prehnite is a translucent yellowish-green mineral with a hardness of 6-6 ½ which was considered to be a lower quality jade by the ancient Chinese and occasionally sold as jade today.

Quartzite, a fine-grained quartz, can be dyed green to make a deceptive material. Dye lines at grain boundaries can be seen with moderate magnification.

Green glass is another thing to watch out for, but bubbles and mold marks often give it away.

Further simple tests*, specific gravity, refractive index, microscopy and occasionally sophisticated gemological evaluation such as X-ray diffraction may be needed to evaluate a jade-like stone.


Jade in China

As noted in the beginning of this paper, jade has been used in China for many practical, ritualistic and artistic purposes. The designs on ancient jade carvings are a fascinating window on ancient thought and belief, often showing little change over thousands of years. The often used estimate of 4000 years of Chinese jade history was increased to 6000 in recent years with the discovery and excavation of Neolithic

*see appendix

gravesites in China yielding jade artifacts. The following account is from Desautels’s
book of jade.

By 1600 BC, astronomy, astrology and mineralogy were well established as means of divining the will of the gods and predicting floods, drought, epidemic, outcomes of wars and political events. Symbols and decorations on jade, ceramics and bronze objects depict the five elements or five ancients (water, metal, fire, wood, earth) which were felt to have produced all things and also to be the spirits of the five planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), which in communication with the Sun and the Moon constituted the seven governors of all worldly affairs.

Each element gave rise to two celestial stems: Fresh and Salt Water from Water, metal Ore and Kettles from Metal, Lightning and Burning Incense from Fire, Trees and
Cut Timber from Wood and Hills and Earthenware from Earth.

Twelve terrestrial branches were based on constellations like our twelve signs of the zodiac and all are real or imaginary animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Serpent, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog and Boar.

The ten celestial stems and twelve terrestrial branches were put together in 2700 BC but not used as a calendar until 200 BC in the Han Dynasty. The ten stems were listed in a column that repeated them six times and the twelve branches in an adjacent column that repeated them five times. The resulting pairs made 60 unique binomial combinations to name the years in 60 year cycles.

Another ancient set of symbols occurs in ceremonial carvings although in some periods they were restricted to decorations on imperial and official robes; these are the twelve “chang” or ancient ornaments. When revived in about 100AD they were the Sun, Moon, stars, mountains, the dragon, “flowery fowl”, temple cups, aquatic grass, flames, grains of rice, the hatchet, and the “symbol of distinction”.

Later, Buddhist symbols (including the eight happy omens and seven gems), Taoist symbols (including the eight immortals and eight precious things), and many others including the swastika were used. The swastika is an emblem of great antiquity; in China it came to symbolize the doctrines of Buddha and eventually the Heart of Buddha.

But the most often repeated design through the ages is the very ancient t`ao t`ieh.
This is a grotesque face with large eyes and tusks. By the Shang Dynasty it became a complex design incorporating one or more of four ancient supernatural creatures, the dragon (lung), the phoenix, the unicorn and the tortoise. Of these four, the dragon
most intrigues the imagination as it romps and slithers its way through thousands of years and tons of carvings. In Western culture, since Babylonian times, the dragon has been considered a dangerous, evil beast to be feared, hated and on occasion slaughtered. However, it was second only to the eagle as a Roman symbol and is the national symbol of Wales! To the Chinese, the dragon signified many things benevolent, worthy, and powerful and it has become the most familiar motif in all Chinese art.

During the Han Dynasty the bat and the butterfly were especially popular. The butterfly symbolized immortality (as it did for the Greeks) while the bat represented long life and happiness. The bat was also one of five animals with planetary powers, the others being the deer, the eagle, the lion and the fish, all of which appear quite often in jade. The lion had the role of guardian, and was used at entrances to Buddhist temples;
In the Ming Dynasty the lion became the “lion dog of Fo” with a ball symbolizing the law. We have all seen smaller carvings often called “foo dogs”.

Ritual Jades of China

The use of jade in solemn ceremonies began with the Shang kings around 1600 BC. Six persistent forms of ritual jade are found in one of the three great written rituals, the Chou li. The pi, a flat disk with a round hole in the center, blue green in color symbolized Heaven; at burials it was placed under the body. The ts’ung, a cylindrical tube enclosed by a square tube, symbolized the earth and was yellow; it was placed on the chest of the body. The kuei was a flat, pointed blade symbolic of wood and was always green. The chang, symbolic of fire, was a rod with a pointed end and was red-orange. The hu, usually a tiger, symbolized metal and was white. The huang looked like halt a pi, symbolized water and was black. In addition the last four symbolized reverence to the East, the South, the West and the North respectively.

The following is quoted from Chu, “The Collector’s Book of Jade” p15-16.1

“The most solemn ceremony for a Chinese ruler was the sacrifice to Heaven and Earth (feng-shan) on the sacred mount Tai. It could only take place when the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity and was free from any natural or man-created disasters. Theoretically, therefore, not every emperor was entitled to perform the ceremony, although if an emperor wanted to do so, there was no way to prevent him. According to reliable historical records, no more then eight such ceremonies were held from the first emperor of Ch’in, who unified China in 221 BC, to Sung Chen-tsung in AD 1008, the last emperor to perform the ceremony.
The most important objects in the ceremony were the jade books, or tablets, that carried the message to the spirits of Heaven and Earth. Two sets were made, one to be buried near the sacred mountain, the other to be carried back to the palace by the emperor.
In 1933, when the soldiers of General Ma Hung-k’uei were cleaning away the rubble of a destroyed pagoda near the sacred mountain two sets of jade tablets were discovered. General Ma kept the tablets for the duration of the war, but in 1950 he brought them to the United States and put them in a vault of a Los Angeles bank. In 1971, his widow returned these important treasures to the government of the Republic of China.
These tablets had, in fact, been discovered at least once before-during Emperor Ch’ien-lung’s reign. He ordered them to be reburied. There were naturally sycophants who told the emperor that he was entitled to the ceremony, to which the emperor replied, “In performing such a ridiculous act, the emperor would deceive himself and cheat the people.” On the other hand, perhaps he did not care to go through the seven days’ fasting before the sacrifice.”

The following is quoted from Desautels, “The Jade Kingdom” p 462

“Taoist….lore included a belief that jade could prevent the decay of the corpse which therefore, from about the time of the Man`ch`eng tombs, was often furnished with small jade pieces intended to stop the nine orifices of the body, a cicada of jade being laid upon the tongue. Prince Li and his wife took this belief to ostentations length and prepared for themselves complete suits of jade, being perhaps the instigators of a fashion which was still observed occasionally in later times. Lady Tou’s suit consisted of 2,160 tablets of jade from1 cm to 4.5 cm with thicknesses of 2 to 3.5 mm held together with gold wire.” Their tombs, found in 1968, date from the second century BC.

Jade in Central Asia2

In 1405, Tamerlane’s body was laid to rest in a deep crypt under an enormous slab of dark green jade in the Gur Emir Mosque of Samarkand. Although broken through the middle centuries ago, the jade is still very impressive being 1800 pounds, 7 feet 8 inches long, well polished and covered with inscriptions and resting on a white marble base. The source of the jade was 600 miles to the east in Yarkand, the Sinkiang source of Chinese nephrite. The transportation problem must have been daunting.

The last of the Timurids was Baber the Tiger who established the Mongul Empire in India after capturing Dehli in 1525. His grandson Akbar stabilized the empire and the Moguls developed a taste for culture and opulence. The reigns of Akbar’s son Jahengir and grandson Shah Jahan, who ruled from 1627 to 1658 were marked by wealth, grandeur and fabulous works of art including the Taj Mahal. India had no jade deposits or lore of jade until the Moguls brought in supplies of jade and set up lapidary shops with master cutters who produced superb works in the unique Mogul style. Rather than letting the jade dominate the carving these pieces blended the finest light colored translucent jade with gold and colored stones inset in the jade in floral or arabesque designs, sometimes with open fretwork in the jade. Jade inlays in jade of contrasting color were also done. By the eighteenth century Chinese carvers were copying some of these elements.

It is of interest that when Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881 slabs of jade were brought from Siberia to make his sarcophagus. When Czar Alexander III died in1894 a large jade canopy was erected over his tomb. Thus the example of Tamerlane’s tomb was followed almost 5oo years later.


Jade in Europe2

Many jade implements used by Neolithic lake dwellers in Switzerland have been uncovered, both nephrite and jadeite, and recently small local deposits of both jades have been found. No jade has turned up in Etruscan or Roman sites, and only a few nephrite artifacts in Greece and a few celts of jadeite in Crete. No European source of jade was known until the 1800’s when it was first found in Silesia. In 1889 the famous gemologist George Kunz who was Tiffany’s gemologist visited Silesia and found one of the largest nephrite boulders weighing 4710 pounds. It is on display in the American Museum of Natural history in New York and looks remarkably like Siberian nephrite.

Prehistoric humans through most of European Russia knew and used jade as attested by numerous axe heads and other implements in their tombs.

Jade in Mesoamerica2, 6

Asiatic people migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge to North America ca 25,000BC and ca 12,000 BC and spread to Central and South America. Agriculture began in Central America about 5000BC. About 1300 BC, without any signs of gradual development, a highly civilized race suddenly appeared along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We call these people the Olmecs. They prospered until 500 BC; their culture included the earliest calendar, rudiments of a written language, and the first large religious centers (with worship of jaguar gods). They also knew and used jade, and carved it at a very high level of artistry. Their culture influenced the entire Mesoamerican region over the next 2000 years giving rise to a widespread reverence for jade persisting in the Mayan and Aztec cultures.

The Mayan culture on the Yucatan Peninsula began about 300 BC and lasted almost 1000 years, when it was overcome by invading Toltecs from the west; their culture lasted another 300 years. These Yucatan cultures developed an advanced writing system and mathematical ideas including the zero. They had a 365 day sophisticated calendar and distinctive architecture and artistry. Their jade carving skill peaked between A.D. 600 and A.D. 900 and enormous numbers of ornaments were produced as well as large plaques carved in high relief and a life-sized jaguar carving with 72 polished jade discs attached; the jaguar was found under a great pyramid at Chichen Itza. Elaborate jade burial masks and suits have been found very similar to the Chinese. The Mayans believed that jade would buy food in the next life. They also used jade knives and bowls in human sacrifices and bloodletting.

The group of city-states that remained after the destruction of Tula, stronghold of the Toltecs, became the base of the Aztec civilization. The Aztecs also considered jade far more precious than gold and used it for ornaments, rituals and sacrifices. A mere 200 years later the Spaniards arrived.

As related in the book on jade by Fred Ward: Herman Cortes took Spanish soldiers from Cuba to Mexico in 1519; he burned his ships to insure his ragtag “army” could not desert and marched inland to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City, intent on conquest. A few hundred Spaniards confronted a city of 300,000 but they were aided by an astounding coincidence: Aztec mythology predicted the arrival of a red-haired god from afar, and Cortes had red hair! Feigning friendship, Cortes captured Moctezuma II, thus beginning Spanish domination that enslaved the people, plundered the land and almost eradicated the indigenous culture. Subsequent generations did not know how to carve jade or where to find it. The jade mines were not rediscovered in the Motagua Valley of Guatemala until 1957 when an American businessman made a lucky jadeite find.

The dogged determination of an American couple, Jay and Mary Lou Ridinger, working in that valley led them to discover in situ jadeite boulders in the 1960’s. Further exploration revealed Mayan work sites, outdoor carving centers which operated in the same locations for centuries. The source of the finest jadeite, a foamy blue-green often found as Olmec carvings in Cost Rican graves, was not found until 1986, also in the Motagua Valley, and also by the Ridingers. A bright green Olmec jade was found in graves mostly in El Salvador and Belize. This they have found only as small green spots on a few boulders so that source was either mined out or remains to be found. Most Mesoamerican jade is impure. The jadeite is mixed with diopside, albite and other minerals.6

Jade in New Zealand 2, 5 , 6, 7

Four thousand years ago, people from Southwest Asia migrated from island to island across much of the South Pacific, then north to populate the Hawaiian Islands, than south to Tahiti. About 950 A.D. they went in large canoes to the Cook Islands and the South Island of New Zealand, a much cooler climate than any they had known. They were Neolithic, or Stone Age, people and were no doubt happy to find nephrite jade, a treasure they quickly put to use as tools, weapons, ceremonial objects and adornment. Before Abel Tasman “discovered them in 1642 and Captain James Cook “rediscovered” them in1769 they had never seen metal. But nephrite was harder and tougher than any metal the British later brought; jade blades hold edges better than iron. The Maori made adzes and chisels for woodworking. They made clubs called mere for hunting seals and moa and for fighting. Mere were used as both war clubs and jabbing instruments. The Maori word for jade is “pounamu” meaning green stone, though it is used for nephrite of all colors and also for bowenite. Each variety of jade is named – “inange” is white to pale green and translucent; “kahurangi” is light bright green, flawless and very translucent; “kokopu” or trout stone has brown spots on greenish yellow; “kawakawa”, named after a native plant, is mottled darker green with black veins and spots; “totoweka” or blood of the wood hen had red spots. Flower jade and picture jade have patterns of white and yellow oxidized jade on green.

Nearly all early Maori carvings were taken as souvenirs by European explorers, whalers and sealers, often by trade for metal tools. Later demand by tourists exceeded supplies and European carvers in Dunedin, N.Z. took over, using Maori designs and even exporting to European dealers. Later, raw jade was exported to Idar-Oberstein Germany, the worlds leading stone carving center, where more than a million pieces were carved and sold between 1896 and 1914, and supplies lasted until 1930. Most were sent back to New Zealand for resale but a number of these appeared in museums, falsely labeled as native Maori work.

The Maori, meanwhile, dominated by the British culture, had quit carving jade in the late 1800’s. Not until the late 1900’s did they start to rediscover their past and press the government on land and other issues as other native cultures have done in Canada and the U.S. They have won back the main jade source, the Arahura River, from its source to the sea. This has created a jade shortage for the non-Maori Kiwi carvers who must now import nephrite from British Columbia.6


Characteristics of Jade vs. Substitutes and Simulants


(Specific Gravity)

Refr. Index

Nephrite Jade

Jadeite Jade





Transvaal “Jade”







Dyed Calcite

Dyed Quartzite

6-6 ½

6 ½-7


5-5 ½

6 ½-7

6 ½

7 ¼




6 ½




6 ½














































  1. Chu, Arthur and Grace; Collector’s Book of Jade; Crown Publishing, New York, 1978


  1. Desautels, Paul; The Jade Kingdom; Van Nostrand Reinhold, N.Y. 1986


  1. Schedel, J.J.; The Splendor of Jade: E.P. Dutton & Co. New York 1976


  1. Keverne, Roger and 16 others; Arness Publishing Ltd., London, 1991-95


  1. 11 Authors; Jade, Ch’ing Dynasty Treasures from the National Museum of

History, Taiwan Huang Kuang-Nan Publishing, Taipei, 1997


  1. Ward, Fred; Jade, Gem Books Publishers, Bethesda, MD. 1996


  1. Hanna, Neil and Menefy, Diana; Pounamu-New Zealand Jade; Jade Press, Kamo,

New Zealand 1995


  1. Arem, Joel; Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones: Van Nostrand Reinhold, N.Y.




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