Friday, September 14, 2012

The Scarcity of Jade? (Part 2, Nephrite)

Fraser River Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Photo Credit: Scented Leaf Blog
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Nephrite jade is found even more abundantly than jadeite jade in regions of China (Turkestan), Australia, the United States, Canada (British Columbia), and more. The nephrite found in British Columbia is most intriguing, and not just because it's close to home. What makes it pertinent to a discussion of jade's rarity is that the primary geological source remains concealed from discovery.

Though much of the nephrite specimens gathered from B.C.'s Fraser River valley are considered low quality, there is a possibility that higher-quality tracts might lie deep beneath the earth's surface or along the hillsides presiding over the river. Deposits of this same type of green nephrite jade can be found as far south as the Cascade Mountain regions of Washington State, though this particular jade is usually called "Canada jade" or "British Columbia jade."

Another source of nephrite jade was found in Alaska in 1885. Many boulders have been collected along the Shungnak River, nestled between Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Though this region was primarily mined for gold through the 1950s, fine-quality nephrite boulders have been found as well. However, it has been reported that much of the nephrite in the valley is rough, scaly, and opaque, mostly unfit for cutting. This remote and fairly untouched source of nephrite is believed to cover a large area at its source.

Further nephrite-rich deposits were found in Australia in the 1960s and '70s. Considered one of the largest nephrite-producing regions in the world, the Cowell Jade Province boasts over a hundred known jade caches. This area produces three varieties of high-quality nephrite jade: green, black, and premium black. On occasion, slices of rare varieties of nephrite can be found demonstrating dendritic inclusions, which manifest as wavy banding along boulder rinds.

As a final example of a nearly untapped source of nephrite jade, the Kunlun Mountain region in Chinese Turkestan is reported to harbor a layer of between 20 and 40 feet of nephrite on the north slopes of the famed mountain. Though most of the jade pulled from this area today is recovered from the Karakash, Yurangkash, and Keriya Rivers, it is reported that the band of nephrite stretches for miles along the mountainside.

With all of these uncultivated and newly discovered sources of jade around the world, it is clear that although it may be true that someday our current sources of high-quality jade may indeed run out, it would be hard to defend a position that jade is actually growing scarce.

Read Part 1.
1. "Jade." Colored Gemstones Guide. Accessed September 14, 2012.
2. Jie, Ma Wen. "How Jade the Mineral Formed." eHow. Accessed September 12, 2012.
3. "Nephrite Jade." Dmitre Minerals. Accessed September 12, 2012.
4. Williams, Anita. "Shungnak, River Mine, Inactive." U.S. Geological Survey. Last updated December 16, 1999.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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