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What Makes Jade Special

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George Harlow

Jade is a very special rock. It has some really unique properties. People throughout history and in different parts of the world thought so, too.

Carving

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scrapbook page with pictures of various carved jade objects and an artisan carving and polishing jade
jade plant carving and and carved screen with openings

beautiful carvings

Jade made great tools, but it's also absolutely beautiful! For thousands of years, people have been carving in this strong, durable material. They used jade to make amazing art objects and jewelry.

carved jade bull figurine

ground into shapes

But Jade is such a strong and durable material that you can't cut it with a knife. Instead, people use grit, grains of tiny, hard materials like quartz sand, to slowly grind jade into different shapes.

man carving jade with motorized machine

carving techniques

Today, people also use diamond saws or grinding tools to carve jade. These tools make the carving process easier and faster. But a long time ago, before metal was known, jade was carved with other rocks or materials like wood and bamboo. This takes a long time!

man polishing jade with machine that uses bamboo

polishing

People in southeast Asia still use bamboo to polish jade. It works because bamboo contains tiny quartz crystals that act as grit. Bamboo produces an excellent polish.

giant carved jade kunz axe from the Olmec people

Kunz Axe

The Kunz axe is a giant chopper or "celt" that was carved by the Olmec over 2,000 years ago. Look at all the details on the front of the axe. One person may have spent months carving it.