Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Nephrite

Carving of 3 Figures, Nephrite Jade
Photo by Penland. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G8590-00

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Turner in 1980.

There are two different minerals that have similar physical properties and are commonly referred to as jade: jadeite and nephrite. This carving is made from nephrite. Nephrite ranges from creamy white to green to almost black in color. Nephrite crystals typically are fibrous and are interwoven to produce a tough rock which serves as an excellent material for carving. From as early as 1000 BC the Chinese were making weapons and ornaments from a green stone they called yu, now known in the West as nephrite. Jadeite was not known in China until it was imported from Burma in the 18th century. Burma is still the most important source for fine jadeite. Nephrite is more common than jadeite and the major sources are Russia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Brithish Columbia.

Sorry!

Landscape mode is not currently supported for this website