card
259

jade

OLogy Series
geology
card
259

jade

OLogy Series
geology

Jade is a special and rare rock. For thousands of years, people around the world have been using this durable and beautiful rock to make tools, jewelry, and art objects. Jade comes in many colors, like green, lavender, white, and orange. Some jade are translucent, they seem to glow as light passes through it.

Jade Mystery Solved!
Archaeologists have found many beautiful jade artifacts made by the ancient people of Mesoamerica. But for a long time no one knew where the jade came from. It was a big mystery! Local jade hunters, followed by George Harlow and a team of geologists, have been exploring the Motagua River Valley area in Guatemala for over 20 years. They would track additional areas of jade after each expedition. Then, in 1999, a devastating hurricane hit Central America, causing landslides and exposing new earth. After this, George and his team were shown new sources of jade. The new jades were more translucent. Some even looked like the rare translucent blue and blue-green jade with white spots used in Olmec artifacts! They kept finding more and more jade in little areas. As of now, these little deposits span an area 100 kilometers (62 miles) wide, as big as Rhode Island.

Chemically pure jade is:

blue

green

white

Are you right?

Correct!

Small impurities, or other minerals, give jade its different colors. Green jade has some chromium or iron. Blue jade has titanium. Jade with a rusty orange hue contains iron oxide.

George Harlow, Earth scientist

Somehow I developed an interest in a rock, jade, that comes from very exotic places. They're not easy to get to, like Burma, Guatemala, and Kazakhstan.

Jade can be found anywhere on Earth, as long as you dig deep enough.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Jade is found only in certain places. Scientists believe that some types of jade form along a special kind of fault line, a crack in the Earth's crust where two plates meet.

Jade is actually a name for two different types of rocks.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The two rocks are nephrite and jadeite. This is a rare case where one name is commonly used for two different rocks made of different minerals.

Jade is the hardest material in the world.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Jade is hard, but so are many rocks and minerals. In fact, diamond is the hardest mineral. Jade is special. It's extremely durable, that means it is almost impossible to break.

Definition: two tough rocks, nephrite and jadeite, each composed essentially of a single mineral
Colors: green, blue-green, lavender, white, brown, black, yellow, orange
Properties: durable, hard
Found: mostly with serpentinite, a rock produced by the collisions of tectonic plates
Most valuable: emerald-green and translucent
Cool fact: If you hit a big piece of jade with a hammer, it won't shatter!

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; George Harlow: courtesy of AMNH, Roderick Mickens.