Stones - Jade Stone

The Oriental mind has woven a wealth of legend into this stone, which varies in colour from pale grey-green and light lavender to a deep green that is almost black in some lights. It is divided by geologists into two distinct types: jadeite and nephrite. The latter is slightly less hard and under a microscope it will be seen that 'in cross-section the fibres have cleavage cracks intersecting, not at approximately 90°, as in jadeite, but at 120°, and there are numerous other differences . . .' However, few, if any, collectors attempt to distinguish between the two, and describe them both as jade.

The stone is alleged by the Chinese to have been forged from a rainbow in order to make thunderbolts for the God of Storms, and it is also the traditional, although surely unpalatable, food of the Taoist genii. By most of the nations of antiquity it was regarded as possessing magical and curative properties; not only was it looked on also as a symbol of virtue, but it was supposed to be of value in the cure of diseases affecting the kidney. Ancient jade objects of various shapes were used for ceremonial purposes and many of them have been excavated in modern times. They have received much attention from scholars and are rarely to be seen outside museums. The Chinese jade that is most likely to be found by the collector is seldom older than the eighteenth century. Being a hard stone it acquires few signs of wear, and with the Chinese habit of copying the designs of earlier days it is not easy to determine the age of many specimens. Large pieces of undoubted age can be very costly, but small examples of less certain vintage may be found for no more than a few pounds apiece.

The so-called 'Mogul' jade is usually of a pale grey-green colour, carved very thinly and often with pierced decoration. Some was inlaid with gold and precious stones, which seem to acquire an added fire against the background of the limpid stone. The Mogul jades were made in India, but were esteemed sufficiently by the Chinese for the Imperial workshops to have a department where work in this manner was produced.

A green nephrite found in New Zealand was used by the natives to make axe-heads and ornaments. Of the latter, the 'Tiki', a ferocious-looking distorted human figure, represents the Maori Creator who 'took red clay, and kneaded it with his own blood'. These pendant talismen are flatly rendered, and usually about three inches high and one and a half inches wide. Specimens some nine inches in height are known but are very rare when so large, and collectors should beware of modern copies of them in all sizes.

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