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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Nephrite Perfume Bottle

Carved dark green nephrite jade in a perfume bottle. Lot described as
Photo by Ken Larsen. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G8835-00
Locality Russia Ca.

Gift of Mrs. Virginia K. Kampf in 1981.

The name jade is applied to two different minerals that have similar physical properties, nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite ranges from creamy white to green to almost black in color. Jadeite is white or green, rarely purple, and sometimes all three colors within a single piece. Translucent, emerald green jadeite is called imperial jade and is the most precious of all jade. Jade is valued for its color and also it toughness, or resistance to breaking. The latter property has made jade useful historically for making weapons and tools, as well as for delicate carvings. From as early as 1000 BC the Chinese were making weapons and ornaments from a green stone they called “yu,” now known as nephrite. Nephrite is found in Russia, New Zealand, Taiwan, British Columbia and the U.S. and is more common than jadeite, which is mainly found in Burma and Guatemala.

This beautiful nephrite perfume bottle is accented with a floral swag motif in yellow gold. It is a translucent green color and was probably made in the early 1900s. Engraved on the inside gold rim is “Frank Hyams, LTD, 120 New Bond St. W.”  Frank Hyams was a jeweler, silversmith, and watchmaker and had stores in New Zealand (founded 1885) and London, England. He specialized in high-end jewelry, silverware, watches, and china along with a strong focus on New Zealand greenstone (nephrite). Mr. Hyams had the native greenstone, which was associated with the Maori race from early records, set in jewelry and curios. Frank Hyams was the leading manufacturer and dealer of New Zealand greenstone at the time. The nephrite perfume bottle was donated to the Smithsonian in 1981 by Mrs. Virginia Kettering Kampf and is a “treasure from the vault” at the National Museum of Natural History.



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