HomeSources of Jadeite Jade

5. Sources of Jadeite

Known sources of jadeite world-wide are relatively limited. The most important sources are located in Burma, Guatemala, Japan, and Kazakhstan. Jadeite is found in certain metamorphic rocks that have undergone metamorphism at high pressure but at relatively low temperature. More particularly, it is found in nodular or long-shaped masses in serpentinite, usually in the form of weathered boulders and cobbles in stream deposits or glacial sediment. Harlow (1993: 13-14) outlines some of the other primary geological features associated with jadeite-bearing serpentinite.

He notes that "jadeites are usually a part of a larger suite of unusual rock types besides serpentinite, including albitites, blueschists, and altered eclogites, that are helpful in interpreting jadeite petrology and in recognizing or predicting its presence." In addition, "jadeite-bearing serpentinites are closely associated with large and possibly active fault zones that are major crustal boundaries (e.g., the San Andreas Fault) and involve mostly horizontal motion" and "most jadeite rocks occur in relatively young geologic terrain, Cretaceous age or younger (less than 100 million years)." In sum, Harlow (1993: 14) argues that "these facts strongly suggest a genetic relationship between plate tectonics... and the formation and surface appearance of jadeite rock."

Burma. Most of the jadeite produced in the world at present comes from northern Burma. This has been the sole source of fine "Imperial" jadeite for several centuries. Bender (1983) describes the geology of the jadeite mining region in Burma. It is characterized by an extensive broken outcropping containing bodies of serpentinized peridotite (their age ranging from Late Cretaceous to Eocene). The serpentinites found here are surrounded by crystalline schists and plutonic rocks (such as granites and monzonites). Jadeite was formed independently of the intrusives by crystallization from hydrous fluids (there were derived by dewatering of the subducted Indian plate) that rose along fractures in the serpentinized peridotite at relatively high-pressure and low-temperature during the Tertiary formation of the Himalayas. Fluids that form in these special conditions are saturated with sodium aluminosilicates. The passage of these fluids through serpentinites generated jadeitite, albite-nephaline, and albitite dikes (jadeite being generated at higher pressure and albite at lower pressure). The dikes commonly have central zones of jadeite and outer rims of chlorite and amphibolite at the point of contact with the serpentinites (see Harlow and Olds 1987).

This region commonly is referred to as the "Jade Tract" or "Jade Land." The latter term is roughly equivalent to the Burmese term for the region: Kyaukseinmyo.It is a rugged plateau located over 400 kilometers north of Mandalay. The main river in the area is the Uru, which serves roughly as the eastern boundary of the Jade Tract. The most important mining area in the region is located at Tawmaw (see Chhibber 1934: fig. 1, pg. 25), about 120 kilometers northwest of Mogaung. Mining has been going on in the Tawmaw area at least since the nineteenth century and Tawnaw is a source of most major varieties and colors of jadeite. Most of the jadeite from this area comes from secondary deposits in the Uru Boulder Conglomerate. The conglomerate is exposed over an area ranging in width from three to over six kilometers (the widest point being at Mamon) and up to 300 meters thick (see Chhibber 1934). There are a number of secondary deposits located west of the Uru River, such as those at Sate Mu, Hpakangyi (adjacent to Hpakan), and Maw-sisa.

The town of Mogaung served as the primary jadeite trading center throughout most of the modern history of jadeite mining in the Jade Tract. Mogaung is located a little over 100 kilometers west of Myitkyina town. It served as a collection and storage center for rough jadeite. Here the material was graded prior to shipping. The importance of Mogaung has declined and Hpakan (also spelled Hpakant, Phakan, or Phakant) has emerged as the primary center in recent years. Hpakan lies along the Uru River some sixteen kilometers by road from Tawmaw.

The Chindwin River serves roughly as the western boundary of the Jade Tract. At present the westernmost mine near the river is located at Lai Sai. Chhibber (1934: 24) mentions a mining site "on the banks of the Chindwin river" in the Hkamti area. Hughes, Galibert, et al (2000: 14-15) believe that Chhibber is referring "to the Nansibon mining region":

On an expedition to the jade mines by a group traveling under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in January and February 2000, four geologists and two gemologists visited the mining area called Nansibon (Namsibum, Manhsibon). It was the first recorded visit by Western gemologists to this area. Located in the Sagaing Division, about 35 km (22 miles) southeast of the Chindwin River town of Hkamti, Nansibon is a group of joint-venture tracts that extend about 2 km along a north-south trending ridge in the middle of dense jungle (central location at N25°51'24", E95°51'30" determined by GPS measurements). The deposit is a steeply inclined (60°–90°E) serpentinite boulder conglomerate in which jadeite cobbles from a few centimeters to perhaps one meter in diameter are “concentrated” in a few narrow horizons. Mining is restricted to mechanized excavation of surface exposures of the conglomerate, which disappears both north and south under Tertiary river sands and lake sediments of the Chindwin basin. Now largely unworked, Natmaw (Nawmaw, Nathmaw) is a smaller area roughly 30 km south of Nansibon, where miners have explored jadeite dikes in serpentinite. As the road there was impassable and time was constrained, the group could not visit these latter mines.

According to current and retired officials from the Myanma Gems Enterprise (MGE), relative to the Jade Tract, Nansibon presently produces a large portion of the gem-quality Imperial jadeite mined in Burma, lesser amounts of other colors and “commercial” jadeite (used for carvings and bangles), and small amounts of “utility” jade (used for tiles, building veneers, and very large carvings...). During the recent visit, GEH and gemologist Robert Kane acquired a comprehensive suite of jadeite from Nansibon in colors including black and many shades of green, lavender, blue-green, “nearly blue,” and “carnelian orange”; these varied from translucent to semi-translucent. They saw numerous small (2–5 mm diameter) cabochons of translucent Imperial green jadeite from Natmaw."

Mines are located to the north near Kansi (Gin Si) and near Putao (over 300 kilometers north of Myitkyina). The latter site is mentioned by Chhibber (1934: 24), who reported that the site was relatively inaccessible and the quality of the jadeite here poor. Hughes, Galibert, et al (2000: 15) comment that "Putao appears to produce a different jade-like material, obviously with a different origin." They report that according to "U Shwe Maik, former director of jade acquisition for MGE,... the alleged jade from Putao is actually green massive hydrogrossular (now hibschite)." The southernmost mines are near Haung Par (Haungpa). To the east of the Uru River there are mining areas at Hwehka (Hweka) and Makapin. Hwehka is about twenty kilometers south of Hpakan along the Hwe River, with Makapin located a little to the east of Hwehka. Jadeite boulders are found in these areas in conglomerate inter-layered with blue-gray sands and coal seams (see Bleeck 1908; Chhibber 1934).

A recent Mason-Kay newsletter (2000: 2) mentions that there are new mines that are producing "unusual varieties that are largely jadeite...(sometimes referred to as 'Te Lung Sing'); that is "reminiscent of a type of jadeite cut in late Ch'ing [Qing] dynasty timers and called 'coins'." The newsletter, however, does not say where these mines are located, but they appear to be within the traditional mining region.

There is an interesting report of the discovery of a new jadeite dike in the Hpakan (Phakant) area. The dike is reported to be very large: "At 70 feet by 20 feet by 16 feet for an estimated mass of 2,000 tons, this dyke is a doozy" (Colored Stone, May/June, 2001, p. 120). The dike is in an area controlled by the Pa-O ethnic group (a sub-group of Karen). The local Pa-O who hold the rights to the dike are said to be charging admission to see it at present rather than mining it. A more recent report on this discovery (Colored Stone, November/December 2001, p. 14) places the weight of the "boulder" at 3,000 tons and quotes the deputy director of the government's Myanmar Gems Enterprise as saying that the government has not yet decided what to do about the bolder, but that it is likely the boulder will be cut up and all or part of it brought to Yangon for sale.

Mesoamerica. Researchers have long been interested in finding the sources of ancient Mesoamerican jadeite. As late as 1964 Digby (1964: 14) commented that "no large deposits of jade are known anywhere in the Maya area, though it is not improbable that such deposits were known in the Highlands of Guatemala and mined in [Prehispanic] Maya times." He mentions that a large jadeite stone weighing about 200 pounds was found in the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu, from which fragments had been detached to make jewelry (see Kidder, et al 1946). Given the considerable variety in the nature of the jadeite that has been found around the Maya area and elsewhere in Mesoamerica it was considered likely that there were a number of sources. Rough jadeite was found in a couple of locations in the 1950s. Cook de Leonard (1971: 211-212) reviews the two locales where small amounts of jadeite were discovered. The first was a site in Guatemala near Manzanal, along the Motagua River in the departments of El Progresso and Zacapa, where "fine jadeite of a lichen-green color" was found (see Foshag 1955, 1957; Foshag and Leslie 1955; and Barbour 1957). The second location was a riverbed on the border of the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca where an olive green jadeite pebble was found. 

Continued exploration since the 1950s has led to the discovery of additional sources of jadeite in Mesoamerica. By far the most important site, however, remains the Motagua River Valley. A search in Guatemala's Motagua River Valley in 1974 by archaeologist Louise Ridinger and her husband Jay turned up not only various colors of jadeite, but also direct evidence of mining by the ancient Maya (see; Ward 1996: 29). This area now seems to have been the site where the ancient Olmec and others obtained most of their jadeite as well, although there is the possibility that at least small quantities of jadeite were obtained from other localities. Jadeite (along with albite) is found along the Motagua River Valley and the river's tributaries either in blocks of serpentinite or in pebbles. Harlow (1994) associates the presence of jadeite at this site with contact between the North American Plate and Caribbean Plate.

More extensive exploration of the Motagua River Valley has revealed numerous new sources of jadeite. Smith and Gendron (1997) ran tests on jadeite pebbles collected on the south side of the Motagua River Valley. The jadeite differed from previously analyzed jadeite samples found on the north side of the valley (where most mining activity took place initially). Of particular significance was the presence of rutile (about 2% by volume) and micro-inclusions of quartz, neither of which had been reported in samples from the north side of the valley. The significance of this find is that it broadens the range of jadeite samples found in this region and, thus, "presents an extra possibility for the geological provenancing of Mesoamerican artifacts in jade."

Although it has received far less attention, as was noted above, Costa Rica has also been an especially important source of ancient jadeite objects. Jadeite pebbles have been discovered in various riverbeds in Costa Rica, but it is uncertain where the ancient lapidaries obtained all of the jadeite that they worked (see Easby 1968: 14). Reynoard de Ruenes (1993) notes that while some of the raw material clearly came from the Motagua River Valley in Guatemala, there are also possible local sources in Costa Rica, especially in the Atlantic region (i.e., the Talamanca Valley and Limón Basin), although she is unable to offer definite proof.

The Caribbean and North Coast of South America. A few artifacts made of jadeite have been discovered in the Caribbean region, although most stone artifacts are made of other materials, such as nephrite or staetite. The jadeite objects include celts and pendants in a variety of shapes. There was a stone grinding technology associated with the Taino culture. This culture emerged around 700 AD and the height of its Classic Period was around 1000 AD. Easby (1991) provides a photograph of two small ceremonial jadeite celts from the Caribbean (one being from Jamaica) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (fig. 11, page 341). They are made of dark green opaque jadeite. She mentions another jadeite celt (fn. 13, page 370) in the collection of the United States National Museum that is from Oriente Province in Cuba. The source of the material for such artifacts is not known. However, jadeite has been discovered in the Dominican Republic (Perfit 1982) and the Guajira Peninsula of Columbia (Green, Lockwood, and Kiss 1968) and Easby (1991: 341) states that "the geology and serpentine deposits of Cuba and Jamaica might signal associated jadeite." There is no contemporary jadeite industry in this region.

Russia and Kazakhstan. Morkovkina (1960) and Dobretsov (1963) are among the earliest sources to mention jadeite in Russia (also see Dobretsov and Ponomareva 1965), but it was a number of years after these publications before jadeite began to be exploited in Russia. Writing in 1991, Frey and Skelton (1991: 265) commented that although there were reports of gem-quality jadeite being found in the Sayan region in 1978, "what has been seen on the market to date would only compare with third-rate raw jadeite stones from Burma." Both Ward (1996: 7) and Newman (1998: 98) mention jadeite being mined in Russia, but they add no details. More information is available in Hughes and Kouznetsov (2000), who visited some of the mines in August 2000. Jadeite was discovered in Itmurundy, Kazakhstan, in the early 1970s, when the region was still part of the Soviet Union. Later, jadeite-bearing rocks were discovered by geologists in the Polar Ural Mountains in 1979. It was not until 1989, however, that Sergei Mikheev discovered a piece of stone with imperial quality jadeite in the Polar Ural Mountains and subsequently was able to attract investment from Hong Kong to commence mining at Pusyerka, located about 160 kilometers from Kharp. Writing in 2000, Hughes and Kouznetsov report that up to that time eighty-eight outcrops of jadeite had been identified in the region: "The jadeite in this area occurs in dikes within a serpentine matrix, with actinolite and phlogopite and from all appearances much material remains." The region has produced jadeite stones of varying quality, including pieces that have sold for as much as US$10,000 and are considered comparable to good quality Burmese jadeite. However, production in the Polar Urals was never large and a report in the May/June 2001 issue of Colored Stone magazine ("Russian Jade", page 89) quoted Richard Hughes stating that at present there was no longer any production.

Jadeite was discovered next in 1992 in Khakassia, in the Republic of Khakassia (which lies within Siberia), near the border with Mongolia. The site is about 100 kilometers from the capital of Abakan, on the banks of the Yenisey River and near the artificial lake created by the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric dam. The mine is operated by Mikhail “Misha” Khronlenko, who is described by Hughes as "Russia’s biggest jade miner and exporter."[4] After crossing the lake, Hughes describes his arrival at the mine site: "Amidst a hillside open cut stood what is probably the single biggest jadeite boulder I have ever laid eyes on... Misha was beaming. 'What do you think?' he asked. 'It’s incredible,' I gushed. 'Yes,' Misha answered, laughing that manic laugh: 'Every dog gets his day.'" The quality of the jadeite from Khakassia ranges from poor to medium with prices generally in the hundreds of dollars per piece. The same report in Colored Stone magazine cited above states that at present the Khakassia mines are the only ones operating in Russia.

Jadeite is still being mined in Kazakhstan, but it is of very low quality. Pieces sell for well under US$100.

California. Hankin (1998: 93) refers to jadeite occurring in "boulders found in California since the 1930s [that] are white, pale green, dark green, and bluish-green, but they are semi-opaque and not of such good quality as the Burmese material." Such boulders have been found in a variety of locations: San Benito country, the border of Mendocino and Trinity counties, and San Luis Obispo country. Jadeite has been found in a glaucophane schist in Sonoma country. Jadeite crystals have been discovered in near the Russian River, near Cloverdale, Mendocino County, California. While not of significant commercial interest, the jadeite in California has received a good deal of scholarly attention: see Coleman (1961); McKee (1963); Coleman and Lee (1963); Coleman and Clark (1968); Maruyama, Liou, and Sasakura (1985); Maruyama and Liou (1988); Patrick and Day (1989); Brothers and Grapes (1989); Ernst and Banno (1991); Radvanee, Banno, and Ernst (1998); and Banno, Shibakusa, Enami, Wang, and Ernst (2000).

Japan and Korea. Chihara (1991: 216) remarks that "probably the least known source of jadeite in the world is Japan." In fact, a variety of colors and qualities of jadeite is found in Japan. Initial attention focused on jadeite objects discovered in burial sites associated with the Jomon period (roughly 4000-1600 BC) by archaeologists (see Mitsuharu 1966). Chihara (1999: 9) argues that this makes "Japan the oldest jadeite culture in the world," although there are European jadeite artifacts of similar age (see below). Among the oldest items that have been found are tools and small curved pieces "rather like thickened commas and known as magatama, which measure about four centimeters overall in length (Wills 1972: 151; they are sometimes described as cashew-shaped). The latter appear to have been worn as pendants. There were also various shapes of beads (sphere-shaped ones known as marutama and small beads called kodama) and large flat pendants with a hole (known as taishu) dating from various periods. Jadeite carving appears to have died out during the latter part of the seventh century.

Early writers assumed that these objects were imported from China (along with nephrite; see Laufer 1912: 351-354), but later it was found that the source of jadeite was Japan itself. Such a source of jadeite in Japan was discovered in the Kotaki district of Niigata prefecture in 1939 (see Iwao 1953; also see Chihara 1971 on jadeite in the Omi-Kotaki area). Wills (1972: 151) comments about the jadeite found here, that although "the veins of jadeite were thin and the quality of the material not high, they would have been sufficient for a bead-making industry." Jadeite was subsequently discovered in other nearby regions in central Japan. Seki, et al (1960) discuss jadeite in Sibukawa district. Miyajima, et al (1999a, 1999b) discuss lamprophyllite and lawsonite found in lavender-colored jadeite from the Itoigawa district, Niigata prefecture. Jadaeite has also been found further south at Mt. Osa in Okayama prefecture (see Kobayashi, et al 1987). Chihara (1999) provides a recent and comprehensive survey of the localities where jadeite has been found in Japan. To the above localities he adds several others where some jaideite has been discovered. These include three additional sites in southwestern Japan in addition to Mt. Osa (Oya, Hyogo prefecture, Wakasa, Tottori prefecture; and Nagasaki), on the Kanto mainland, and on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Jadeite in Japan is found in the form of jadeite rocks and veins as well as jadeite-albitite veins. In the case of the latter, the inner portion is composed of albitite and quartz and the outer part of jadeite. Chihara (1999: 14-15) divides the jadeite found in Japan into three main types: 1) the Kotaki type, "the typical, quite regular zonal arragement is, from inner to outer, albitate (with or without quartz), white jadeite rock, green jadeite rock, soda rich calciforous amphibole and host serpentine"; 2) the Omi type, which shows a "distinct stratiform structure", sometimes with alternative coarse and fine compact layers and often containing lavender colored jadeite within the rock; and 3) the Tsugaike type, this is "a white, compact jadeite associated with veins of very coarse-grained prismatic crystals of jadeite."[5] Chihara (1991: 216-217) reports that white is the most common color of jadeite encountered in Japan, with green being less common, and violet and blue colored jadeite also being encountered. Chihara (1999: 13) lists the following colors (and provides information on the mineral composition of jadeite rocks and the color and chemical composition of some of these): white, lavender, pale lavender, pale blue, pale green, green, and dark green.

The modern history of jadeite in Japan appears to begin with the re-discovery of jadeite in Niigata prefecture in 1939 (a region from where jadeite came during the Jomon period). Without going into detail, Chihara (1999: 9) states that "in 1941 and 1949 a few tons of jadeite raw material were exported to Hong Kong." Although very little of the jadeite found in Japan is of gem quality, Japanese lapidaries recently have begun carving local jadeite (especially from the Kotaki district of Niigata prefecture). The most popular items made include cabochons for rings and pendants.

Jadeite artifacts, including tools and magatama, have also been found in archaeological sites in southern Korea. Frey (1991b) and Chihara (1999: 9-10) report that a large number of magatama in particular have been found in archaeological sites from the Silla Dynasty (668-935 AD), including one tomb excavation that "yielded over 35,000 magatama made of jadeite and other stones, as well as glass" (Frey 1991b: 219). The jadeite does not appear to have come from Korea. Both Frey (1991b: 218) and Chihara (1999: 9) note that many of these artifacts have been found near the coast in an area that is not too distant from the Niigata area in Japan and believe that it is likely that these items came to Korea from Japan by sea.

Europe. Ancient specimens of worked jadeite have been found in various locations in Europe and Turkey. These generally take the form of ceremonial axes. They have been found in various parts of the United Kingdom (see Bishop, et al 1977; Bishop and Woolley 1978; Jones, Bishop, and Woolley 1977; Smith 1963, 1965, 1972; Woodcock, Kelly, and Woolley 1988), Italy (see D'Amico, Felice, and Mazzeo 1992; Leighton 1992; Leighton and Dixon 1992; O'Hare 1990), Netherlands (see Overwell 1983), Spain, Portugal, western Germany, France (see Compagnini and Ricq de Bouard 1993; Ricq de Bouard and Fedele 1993; Le Roux 1979), Switzerland, and Slovakia. Their composition is usually green jadeite (see Woolley, et al 1979). While sometimes there is a large admixture of diposide and aximite or of iron (forming chloromelanite), there are examples of a purity almost equaling that of the better quality Burmese jadeite.

There have been a number of studies of Neolithic jadeite axes from northern Italy and adjacent regions of eastern France. D'Amico, Felice, and Mazzeo (1992), for example, describe jadeite axes from Friuli in northern Italy, Ricq de Bouard and Fedele (1993) describe them from adjacent areas of southern France, and D'Amico, et al (1995) provide a general survey of the region. D'Amico, et al (1995: 34) report that "although jadeite is often the dominant mineral in the jades and omphacite in the eclogites, the coexistence of different pyroxene compositions (Jd, Fe-Jd, Omph, Fe-Omph, sporadic Agt) is the general rule, with few exceptions." Jadeite axes have also been found to the north in Switzerland, dating to somewhere between 3500 BC and 1800 BC.

Several jadeite axes have been found in Moravia. Schmidt and Stecl (1971) describe eight of these. All of the artifacts are described as being various shades of green. On the basis of a variety of tests (including X-ray analysis), they are of "an almost mono-mineral character," being composed of pyroxene jadeite (page 143), with the possibility of "the presence of small amounts of alkaline pyroxene (e.g., fassaite type)" as well as chlorites in some specimens (pages 145, 149). These axes are associated with the Moravian Painted Pottery People stage which is included within the Lengyel culture. Schmidt and Stecl (1971: 150) also discuss the question of the source of the jadeite material. They note that nineteenth century archaeologists speculated that a local source might be found, but this did not prove to be the case. A later author, writing in 1946, argued that the material came from Silesia, but Schmidt and Stecl comment that he was in error and "confused jadeite and nephrite." While Schmidt and Stecl are unable to determine a precise place of origin, they argue that "it is very probable that [the axes] were imported from the South which provided many cultural goods."

In a more recent article, Hovorka, Farkas, and Spisiak (1998) discuss a Neolithic jadeite axe discovered in neighboring western Slovakia. The artifact is associated by the authors with the local Lengyel culture, which developed in this region between 5000 BC and 3500 BC. Ninety-five percent of the stone is composed of clinopyroxene aggregate which consists of a mixture of jadeite and omphacite. Opaque sections in the center of the axe composed of rutile. The remaining components of the stone include zoisite, light mica, and what appears to be plagioclase. There is no known local source this jadeite. The shape of the axe resembles axes found in Italy and since the western Alps is the site of what appears to be the largest source of raw jadeite in western Europe the authors postulate that the axe may have originated there.

Documented raw jadeite occurrences in Europe are very rare. The Western Alps in the vicinity of the borders of Switzerland, France, and Italy appears to be the main source of jadeite in Europe. D'Amico, et al (1995), Lefevre and Michard (1965), Compagnoni and Maffeo (1973), and Biino and Compagnoni (1992) describe jadeite found in the Italian portion (the Piedmonte zone) of the western Alps and Saliot (1979) describes jadeite from the French portion. D'Amico, et al (1995: 37) comment that "the fact that sites 300-400 km away from the western Alps, such as Trentino and Friuli, were receiving about 70% of their axes from the western Alps, implies a significant export activity, which was extended also towards other parts of Europe." While this region appears to have been a source of most of the early jadeite artifacts found in Europe, there may have been other sources as well, but these have yet to be found and small sources may have been worked out long ago. Elsewhere is Europe, Essene (1969) describes jadeite discovered on the island of Corsica. Frey and Skelton (1991: 260) remark that the raw material found in Europe is not of gem quality and, therefore, has generated relatively little interest except among archaeologists.

Turkey. Jadeite has been found in a few locations in Turkey. Some of this jadeite is commercially exploited and exported as jade. The source of the jadeite is east of Balikesir in northwestern Turkey in what is known as the Tavsanli Zone. Okay (1984) describes this zone as a "tectonic belt of blueschist, volcano-sedimentary complex and ophiolite" that measures between fifty and sixty kilometers wide and some 300 kilometers long. Within this zone are found what Okay (1997: 835; also see Okay 1980) refers to as "jadeite—K-feldspar rocks" and notes that "unlike... classical jadeites, which occur as blocks in serpentine and have a largely metasomatic origin, jadeite—K-feldspar rocks from northwest Turkey are found as blocks in the Miocene debris flows and represent metamorphosed phonolites." He continues his description (1997: 837):

The breccia layer consists of very poorly sorted, matrix supported blocks of blueschist, peridotite, marble and jadeite—K-feldspar rock in a mudstone/sandstone matrix. The size of the clasts ranges from 3m down to a few mm with jadeite—K-feldspar rocks forming the largest blocks... The farmers have carried most of these blocks to the margins of their fields and have used them to make stone walls. All the exported jadeite—K-feldspar rocks come from these stone walls or from the boulders in the fields.

In general appearance, the rocks are described by Okay (1997: 838) as "very tough, white, pale green to purple rocks with a fine-grained homogeneous texture."

In his 1997 article Okay analyzes eight samples (page 838). The jadeite content ranges from 34% to 85% and the K-feldspar content from 43% to none. In general, the higher the percentage of jadeite the lower the percentage of K-feldspar. Other elements found in the stones in include aegirine, lawsonite, albite (in only one of the samples), sericite, and quartz. There are also traces of monzanite, piemontite, and magnetite in some of the samples. In regard to color, Okay (1997: 839) comments that "the striking pink colour of many of the jadeite—K-feldspar rocks comes from jadeite, which is commonly pale brownish pink in thin-section. The origin of the colour if jadeite is unclear but may be related to the trace elements in the mineral."

Other Localities. The mineralogical literature contains reports of jadeite being found in a few other localities. These include the Indonesian island of Sulawesi (Roever 1955) and the Pacific island of New Caledonia (Black 1970). None of this jadeite appears to have been exploited commercially. Jadeite has been reported coming from Tibet as well, but this has not been confirmed.

Wright and Chadbourne (1970: 76) discuss the possibility of jadeite being found in the Middle East in Bibical times:

Since jade has been found in a number of archaeological digs in bible lands, it must hve been a familiar gemstone of early cultures... The International Bible Encyclopedia and Concordance printed in 1908 suggests that 'jasper' as used in the Scriptures might well be translated jade in many instances. In Revelation when jasper 'clear as crystal' is mentioned, fine translucent jade could be the gem to which it refers (21:11)... Merrill F. Unger explains that considerable uncertainty is found regarding the Greek term iaspis, usually translated jasper. Ancient peoples likely included lovely green jade as well as several hues of translucent chalcedony as iaspis. The greek word often is used not so much to describe color or other special optical properties of the gem, but to indicate qualities of an object too beautiful to describe adequtely. The delicate hues of jade with its translucency approaching the clarity of crystal might be the highly esteemed and cherished gem of the people of Bible days.

In fact, it would seem likely that the various stones referred to as iaspis do not include jadeite, but are other simulants instead.

Sources of Jadeite –


1. Myanmar - Pharkant.

2. Japan - Honshu and Hokkaido

3. Russia - Sajany Mountain near Lake Baikal and Boruss, Sokhatiny, Republic of Khakasia

4. Guatemala - Manzanal.

U.S.A. - Northern California.

Jadeite-jade of Myanmar

The most important source of jadeite jade in the world is around the drainage basin of the Uru river of Myitkyina district, Myanmar. In the Myitkyina district (see map below), the jadeite deposits can be classified into two major groups i.e. primary and secondary deposits.


Primary deposits

Primary deposits are rock materials found in-situ. Most primary deposits found in the northern Pharkant, Myitkyina district, include several famous deposits such as 83 jadeite jade mine, Carter jadeite jade mine, Tawmaw – Pakamaw mine, Yunchiu mine, Hte Long Sein mine and Maw-sit-sit mine. Jadeite jade found in the first three mines is mainly white with





Map of Myanmar showing the jadeite location (from Jewellery News Asia).





Cross-section showing the alluvial deposit of jadeite in Pharkant region (by OuYang).




High-level jadeitite bearing deposits








Uru River














green patches, whilst jadeite jades from the remaining three mines are mainly rich green due to increased chromium and occur as dykes.


Secondary deposits

Secondary deposits are rock material that have been transported away from the source

and deposited down stream. Most of the secondary deposits are located from the southern Lone Khin area to Pharkant, Seng Tong, Tahmakan and Whay Kha. Secondary deposits in these areas can be divided into two types: high level jadeite-bearing boulder deposits and present-day riverbed deposits.

High level jadeite-bearing boulder deposits are usually located away from the present Uru river. This type of deposit usually occurs as sediments in three distinct layers. The sequence, starting from the top is yellow in colour, then red in the middle and a black bottom layer. The extent of the sediment range from 30 to 100 feet with variable thickness. The size of the boulders range from 3 to 500 cm in diameter and they are usually sub-angular to sub-rounded in shape. The boulders consist of quartzite, schist and jadeite jade loosely cemented by sand, clay and sandy clay forming together a massive conglomerate. Good gem-quality jadeite jade boulder is usually found in this type of deposit.

When the high-level jadeite-bearing boulder deposits are eroded away by the river, the

boulders are then re-deposited in the lower region of the riverbank. This type of deposit is called Present day riverbed deposits. Boulders found in this type of deposit can be identified by their smooth outer skins and rather rounded shape. These deposits are found when the riverbed is dry during the dry season. But during the wet season, the deposits are submerged.



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