Jasper and Jade aren’t named for Jim and Judy’s twins in this instance but are two of the three gems in the directory of gems that begin with J. The third one is Jet which I wrote about a while ago, and I thought I should look at these two as well.
Jasper is one of the most common and one of the oldest known gems. It’s an opaque form of chalcedony that comes in the most astonishing array of colours and patterns and is mined all over the world. The most common is red, but every other colour, except true blue, can be found.
It is well documented that jasper was a favourite of the ancient civilisations, and bow drills made out of green jasper have been dated to between the 4th and 5th millennium BC, found in what is now Pakistan. Arrowheads and scrapers from the Neanderthal period have also been found made in red, green and yellow jasper, so it’s been around and utilised forever.
Jasper carves beautifully, and it takes on a high shine, and Polly has used it to great effect in different forms. This Jasper ring is highly polished and facet cut jasper with little gold flecks in it. We have jasper beads in all colours and patterns too, and it works beautifully with our gold in any form, because, unsurprisingly has an ancient look and feel to it.
But there’s a secret side to this common and mostly inexpensive stone and that’s ‘picture jasper’. Mined in Idaho, this Bruneau jasper forms in extraordinary patterns which, when cut carefully and polished well, are quite wonderful little pieces of art in themselves. Other picture jasper is mined in Oregon in the Biggs Triangle – thus the name Biggs Picture Jasper – and it’s no wonder that some of these pieces are highly sought after collector’s items.
Jade, too, has its value in the collectors’ world, but for different reasons. Jade has been mined for millennia. Chinese jade has been mined since 6000 BC and has been an integral part of Chinese culture for all time, and stone-age axe heads have been found as well.
Jade is predominantly an Asian mineral with historical significance in China, Japan, Korea, Myanmar (from whence comes the highest quality jade, apparently) and right down to New Zealand. I was interested to read about the Maori history with jade because they have never featured in any of my articles. Jade was, and is, a sacred stone to the Maori who have used it throughout history. Amazingly, they used to make jade nails before metal arrived on the islands through European contact.
Central American countries – Guatemala and Costa Rica particularly – have a long history of jade use, primarily in trade and ornamentation. For a long period the value of jade in Asia was equivalent to the value of gold and gems in the west, and even today in China, jade is apparently more precious than gold.
Sometimes jade is called nephrite and sometimes jadeite. They’re different minerals, in fact, but both come under the jade umbrella.
Ranging from dark green (mostly Russian and Canadian) to translucent white, jade comes in quite a wide variety of colours and has some wonderful names. ‘Mutton fat’ jade, for instance, is sort of opaque white and quite valuable. ‘Chicken bone jade’ is as the hame suggests – a bit sort of greyish but actually quite muted and beautiful.
As with most minerals, treated jade is becoming more and more common so it’s a bit ‘buyer beware’, when it comes to buying jade, but Polly has used jade in her work and has one piece that we know is the real deal. No one is sure exactly what it was used for originally, but this Jade Pendant is very old, certainly, and the general feeling is that it might have been a scale on an armoured breastplate. Its extraordinary greenish-grey colour looks wonderful with our gold, and one day someone will wear this wonderful pendant with pride.
Jade has never really caught this magpie eye, but now that I’ve spent time studying it, I can begin to see the understated beauty in this mineral, and I’ll stop and look more closely from now on.