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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Nephrite Bowl

Photograph of a nephrite jade bowl (NMNH G9716) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G9716-00
Locality British Columbia, Canada

Gift of Mrs. Milton Turner in 1982.

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. Jade is valued for its color as well as its toughness, or resistance to breaking. This later property has made jade useful historically for making weapons and tools, as well as for delicate carvings. This bowl is carved from nephrite. Nephrite crystals typically are fibrous and are interwoven to produce a tough rock. From as early as 1000 B.C. the Chinese were making weapons and ornaments from a green stone they called yu, now known in the West as nephrite. This bowl is 9 cm (3.5 in) tall and is carved from nephrite from British Columbia, Canada.



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