About B.C. Nephrite Jade

Jade was formed under high pressure and temperatures, deep in the earth’s crust in a process that has taken millions of years to complete. The term “Jade” refers to two different mineral species: Jadeite and Nephrite.

Jadeite is comprised of silicate of aluminum and crystaline. It is found mainly in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Jadeite, sometimes referred to as Burmese Jade, ranges in colour from white to a light, minty green, purple and brown.

Nephrite jade is comprised of silicate of calcium and magnesium. It is found in Russia, New Zealand and B.C., Canada. Large deposits found in British Columbia have made it the Jade capital of the world, and it was named the Provincial Gemstone in 1969. Nephrite jade ranges in colour from white (often called Champaign or Mutton Fat Jade) through various shades of green, and on occasion even black. Typically, nephrite jade is a medium to deep green colour. The rough stone is mined primarily in the northwestern region of the province near Dease Lake.

Carving Jade

Due to it’s hardness, carving jade must be done by a lengthy procedure of cutting, grinding and polishing. Once the artist determines their design, as much of the excess jade as possible is cut or broken away with diamond saws. After the initial shape is formed, the final shaping is done by a slow and laborious process of grinding and polishing. The final polish is done with the aid of a diamond dust or other abrasive compound. Many carvers keep secret their method of achieving the final glossy sheen.

The stages of cutting a nephrite jade cabochon – From initial shaping to final polish.
The stages of cutting a BC jade cabochon – From initial shaping to final polish.

The very qualities which make jade such a difficult stone to carve also account for its appeal as a carving medium. It takes a great deal of time and patience to work jade, but once the natural beauty of the stone is revealed in its finished form, you have a collector’s piece of lasting value. It’s luminous green colour adds to the appeal of both jewellery pieces or carved figurines.

The stages of carving a nephrite jade beaver.
The stages of carving a beaver from B.C. jade.

Meaning and Healing Properties of Jade

Jade, prized in the Orient and throughout the world, carries a legend that is believed to have mysterious powers of restoring good health and bringing tranquility and good fortune to its possessor. It is said that when jade is received as a gift, these properties of good fortune are doubled. The opposite is also true, and jade acquired dishonestly will leave the possessor cursed with misfortune. Traditionally linked with serenity; jade is a stone of balance, peace, harmony and good fortune. It is also recognized as the traditional gift for celebrating the 35th anniversary.

Grading the Quality of Nephrite Jade

Often people think that jade is graded by colour. Although this is a factor, the main trait you are looking for is translucency, or the amount of light that travels through the stone. Other factors include fractures and impurities in the stone.

AA+ Jewellery Grade

– consistent translucent colour
– completely free of fractures & flaws
– bright apple green/forest green colour

A Grade

– translucent colour
– minor discolourations/impurities

B Grade

– less translucent/mottled colour
– minor discolourations/impurities
– some fractures

C Grade – carving quality

– milky/muddy colour
– many discolourations/impurities
– visible fractures

photo of the different grades of nephrite jade