Decorative Arts :
Sculptures : Jade Rhyton
Jade Rhyton - SP.612
5" (12.7cm) high
Collection: Decorative Arts
Condition: Extra Fine
Location: United States
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An ornamental stone, jade is applied to two
different rocks that are made up of different
silicate minerals. Nephrite jade consists of the
calcium- and magnesium-rich amphibole
mineral actinolite (aggregates of which also make
up one form of asbestos). The rock called
jadeitite consists almost entirely of jadeite, a
sodium- and aluminium-rich pyroxene.
The English word 'jade' is derived from the
Spanish term piedra de ijada (first recorded in
1565) or 'loin stone', from its reputed efficacy in
curing ailments of the loins and kidneys.
'Nephrite' is derived from lapis nephriticus, the
Latin version of the Spanish piedra de ijada.
Because both were used by Stone and Bronze Age
cultures for similar purposes, and they are both
about as hard as quartz, exceptionally tough,
beautifully coloured and can be delicately
shaped, it was not until the 19th century that a
French mineralogist determined that "jade" was
in fact two different materials.
During the Stone Age of many cultures, jade was
used for axe heads, knives, and other weapons.
As metal-working technologies became
available, jade's beauty made it valuable for
ornaments and decorative objects. Jade has a
Mohs hardness of between 6.5 and 7.0 , so it
can be worked with quartz or garnet sand, and
polished with bamboo or even ground jade.
Nephrite can be found in a creamy white form
(known in China as "mutton fat" jade) as well as
in a variety of green colours, whereas jadeitite
shows more colour variations, including dazzling
blue, lavender-mauve, pink and emerald-green
colours. Of the two, jadeitite is rarer,
documented in less than 12 places worldwide.
Translucent emerald-green jadeitite is the most
prized variety, both now and historically. As
"quetzal" jade, bright green jadeitite from
Guatemala was treasured by Mesoamerican
cultures, and as "kingfisher" jade, vivid green
rocks from Burma became the preferred stone of
post-1800 Chinese imperial scholars and rulers.
Burma (Myanmar) and Guatemala are the
principal sources of modern gem jadeitite, and
Canada of modern lapidary nephrite. Nephrite
jade was used mostly in pre-1800 China as well
as in New Zealand, the Pacific Coast and Atlantic
Coasts of North America, Neolithic Europe, and
southeast Asia. In addition to Mesoamerica,
jadeitite was used by Neolithic Japanese and