Nephrite jade, from Russia

Nephrite jade, from Russia

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Nephrite jade is a rock composed essentially of a variety of amphibole, actinote, of chemical formula Ca2 (Mg, Fe) 5Si8O22 (OH) 21. It is one of the two rocks called jade, the other being jadeitite, composed essentially of jadeite, a variety of pyroxene. Nephrite is an ornamental stone, used in a wide variety of jewelry or decorative objects.

The name nephrite is derived from the Latin lapis nephriticus, translation of the Spanish piedra de ijada.

Nephritis can be translucent, white or very slightly yellow (called variety in China fat jade sheep), or opaque, white or very slightly brown or gray (variety called jade bone chicken) up to green, or present any nuances Of the green. Canada is the main producer.

Nephrite jade was mostly used in China before the nineteenth century, in New Zealand, on the coasts of North America, in Neolithic Europe and in Southeast Asia.


Green nephrite from Russia has gained a great reputation because of its bright color and good transparency. Both white and green nephrite are mined in Russia. Some of the white stones can be of equal quality to the most sought-after “mutton fat” jade and can be sold for high prices in China. Green nephrite is more readily available than the white varieties.

The first green nephrite boulders were discovered on riverbanks in Russia’s Sayan area in 1826. There were additional discoveries in 1851 along the Onot River. The first primary nephrite deposit was reportedly discovered in 1986.

Siberian nephrite mines are located in extremely remote areas of Russia, in the Eastern Sayan Mountains and the Dzhida areas to the southwest of Lake Baikal, along with the Parama massif to the northeast of the lake.

The Sayan Mountains are geographically and geologically related to the Altai Mountains that cross northwestern China, northern Mongolia, and Southwestern Russia. Many people believe that this connection is the reason for the similar qualities of nephrite from China and Russia.

Prehistoric and ancient China

The main sources of nephrite jade in Neolithic China were the now depleted deposits in the Ningshao area in the Yangtze Kiang Delta (Liangzhu culture, 3400-2250 BCE), as well as in an area of ​​Liaoning Province And in Inner Mongolia (Hongshan culture, 4700-2200 BCE).

Jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, from interior decorations to the funeral costumes of the Han dynasty. It was considered the “Imperial Stone”.

From the earliest Chinese dynasty to the present day, the most exploited jades were those of the Khotan region of Xinjiang (other areas such as Lantian in Shaanxi were also in high demand). The white and green nephrites are small veins or are carried by the rivers running down the Kunlun Mountains to the Taklamakan Desert.

The harvest of the jade was concentrated on the Yarkand, the Yurungkash (or “White Jade River”) and the Karakash (“Black Jade River”). The Kingdom of Khotan, south of the Silk Road, paid China an annual tribute of white jades, considered to be more valuable than gold and silver, and were transformed into “objets d’art” by Craftsmen attached to the imperial court.

Natural Nephrite Jade

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