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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Jadeite

Photograph of a carved deep green jade (NMNH G2179) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G2179-00
Locality Myanmar [Burma]
Weight 14.76 ct

Purchased with funds from the Chamberlain Fund in 1940.

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, colored by chromium, is called imperial jade and is the most precious of all jade. Jade is valued for its color and also its toughness, or resistance to breaking. The latter property has made jade useful historically for making weapons and tools, as well as for delicate carvings. This small (13.7 carat) carved piece of imperial jade from Burma shows excellent color and translucency.


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