Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Scarcity of Jade? (Part 1, Jadeite)

Guatemala Blue Jadeite
Photo Credit: Blue Jades
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

A rumor runs rampant among jade traders in China. Could it be true that the geological sources for top-quality jade are at risk of being depleted? It seems as if this rumor, kept swirling about the heads of jade seekers might be driving the price of jade higher and higher each year.

It is true that in some areas of China, such as Hotan (Khotan), government agencies have cracked down on commercial pillage of the beautiful white nephrite jade along the White Jade River (Yurungkash) area for fear of exhaustion of this age-old source of mutton-fat jade. It is also true that there are a limited number of known sources for high-quality nephrite and jadeite jade in the world. However, even a cursory bit of research could make a person wonder if this rumor of jade's growing scarcity is actually true.

It seems that in Burma (Myanmar), at least, gemstone-quality jadeite jade continues to be exported at rates in excess of 46,000 tons (2010-11 figure). And as recently as 2010, jade expert Wang Chunyun reported that untouched tracts of white jade run through the Kunlun Mountains. Furthermore, as far away as Australia, Korea, and Poland, there are reports of similarly unmined jade lodes. Mr. Wang, though unwilling to attempt to dispel the rumor in the marketplace (on the grounds that "it would be too much of a psychological blow"), told New York Times reporter, Andrew Jacobs that "the rarity of jade is a myth."

In fact, in 2011 a team of scientists and scholars located a staggering cache of blue-green jadeite jade north of the Motaqua fault in Guatemala that was reported to have produced house- and bus-sized boulders of jadeite. This same team later found 2-yard wide jade veins running along the hillsides in a 50-yard stretch.

Several miles south of the fault line, the team found more "huge boulders of blue." Dr. Virginia Sisson, of Rice University, told a reporter that this jade rivaled the quality of any that they had found in Burma, the leading source of commercial top-quality jadeite jade in the world.

While it is true that the jadeite north of the fault line is not grade A (commercial-quality), it sounds like the stones found south of the fault may prove to be commercially viable, once the long-range scientific research has been completed in the area.

And this just covers the abundant sources of jadeite jade. Nephrite jade is found even more abundantly in regions around the world. Read more...
1. Broad, William J. "In Guatemala, a Mother Lode of Jade." GSA Foundation. Accessed September 12, 2012.
2. Hansen, Kathryn. "Unlocking Jade's Secrets." Geotimes, August 2006.
3. Jacobs, Andrew. "Jade From China's West Surpasses Gold in Value." The New York Times. Published online September 20, 2010.
4. Magnier, Mark. "Jade Trade Chips Away at a Bit of China's Soul." Los Angeles Times. Published online September 17, 2006.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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