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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.

Durability

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scrapbook page with pictures of various jade tools and a diamond
3 choppers and hammers made of jade

tools

Jade is one of the most durable rocks in the world. That makes it the perfect material for choppers and hammers like these, made by people long ago.

chunk of jade with different colored patches of white, orange and green

almost impossible to break

Why is jade so durable? Jade has a lot of the fine grains that are meshed together. When jade is struck the mesh prevents the formation of a crack. With other rocks a crack can often spread into a very long one, which makes them break.

3 similar shaped tools from various places around the world

tools around the world

Thousands of years ago, the world was a very different place. People didn't have metal. But they still had to make tools and weapons. People in different parts of the world, with no contact with one another, discovered jade. These tools have similar shapes, but they're from all over the world!

diamond

diamond

Most stones are hard, but they're not all durable. A diamond is the hardest known material. But if I hit a big piece with a hammer, it will shatter. Jade is not the hardest material, but it's very durable. That means it's nearly impossible to break. If I hit a big piece with a hammer, it wouldn't shatter.

Image Credits:

Tools: courtesy of AMNH; diamond: courtesy of AMNH, Rondi Davies; tools around the world: top left, Peter Vollenweider/Natural History Museum Bern; other jade tools, courtesy of AMNH; raw jade: courtesy of AMNH, Denis Finnin; Carving: jade objects: courtesy of AMNH; workers: courtesy of George Harlow and colleagues