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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Jadeite Dragon Vase

Photograph of a jade dragon vase (NMNH G4589) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G4589-00

Gift of Mrs. Marjorie M. Post in 1969.

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, as seen here in this carved vase. Jade is valued for its toughness, or resistance to breaking. This property has made jade useful historically for making weapons and tools, as well as for delicate carvings. Jade is also valued for its color: traces of chromium impart the brilliant green; manganese produces the mauve and lilac shades; and the white parts are impurity-free. The Jade Dragon Vase stands 50cm (19.7in) tall and is carved of rare lavender jadeite from Burma. The carving is modern but of unknown origin.

From the exhibit

The internal arrangement of jadeitite crystals makes jade tough, allowing it to be carved into delicate shapes like the vase above. Traces of chromium impart the brilliant green. Manganese produces the mauve and lilac shades. The white parts are impurity-free.

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