Original Chinese jade is nephrite and not jadeite, the latter comes from Myanmar. Chinese jade has been used for thousands of years in jewelry and household items, as well as weapons and religious instruments such as Buddha statues and gods from other cultures of primitive India / Hindu.
For long time it was believed that jade comes from China, what is wrong from today's position it is Tajikistan which is close to China and is part of the old silkroad. In recent years, jade trading is shifting more towards resources from Myanmar, (Burma) and Canada plus Australia this two countries having currently the largest nephrite source, the old jade-mines along the silkroad nea are almost totally exploited (2019).
Chinese jade from a Xiuyan mine
A Hotan Jade mine
Canadian jade used in China
Canadia BC jade in China
New geological methods are constantly finding new storehouses, but only relatively few. Today, the next jade site is being smuggled across the border from Myanmar to China and then declared as Yunnan Jade. In China it's Nephrite, no jadeite, this mineral come from Myanmar. It is used for jewelry and other items since thousands of years. Over a long period of time people thought a oriental jade mine, actually nephrite, is only in China, which was wrong. The real good stuff was and is jadeite, this is mined as Burmese jadeite, it is smuggled over the border and then it was Chinese jade.
To ancient Chinese, nephrite was a revered stone which commands its importance in their cosmology and rituals. They believed that the world was surrounded by water, and the breath or influence of nature affect both living and dead. The fate of man is determined by cosmological influences.
They developed a sort of quasi-scientific system instructing men where and how to build dwellings, graves and temples so that the living, the dead and the gods be properly located under the auspicious influence of nature.Today, these superstitions are of course losing ground, and yet the mineral is still in increasing demand not only by the Chinese but also by people the world over. Two reasons seem to explain it: First, exquisite dresses and elaborate jewellery are coming back into fashion in both women and men's worlds.
Chinese jade cabochons
Ancient Chinese jade dagger
Neolithic Chinese jade arrowheads
Chinese jade was, since Neolithic times manufactured into daggers, axes, spearheads, arrowheads, and every day use items found at excavations from ancient China. Since those have been from Shang, Chou and Han period its a good evidence for a
China and Burma or Myanmar is very deeply connected in terms of the green stones. Chinese merchants did brisk business since hundreds of years over the southern border between Yunnan and Burma. In 1857 when King Mindon of Burma moved the capital from Amarapura to Mandalay Chinese jade merchants also moved and started a cutting and carving cottage industry at Mandalay.
In 1861 a clever merchant from Canton visited Mandalay and bought all jadeite stones and items available in town to take them back to China. He sold them all after arrival and became instantly a very rich man. The news spread and people from Yunnan came down to Mandalay and applied for a royal permit to mine for oriental jade, they took it back to Yunnan and suddenly it was Chinese jade. There was a rush in Mogaung, upper Burma, many of the would be miners died of malaria, or were looted and killed by gangsters at the trade route
Myanmar Jade mine
A typical jade mining area is Phar Kant in north west Myanmar the jade mine and mines mines are at Myitkyina District of Kachin State not far off from India, that's about one thousand kilometers north of Yangon. Phar Kant is Shan language and means "the place where the wall is cut off". The jadeite mining area is around 200 sqkm. Before oriental jade was found the area was totally empty of people now its heavy populated with Myanmar people and Chinese who try to make quick cash with oriental jade. Plenty of Myanmar companies paid quite some money for the mining licenses, most area is already denuded, hills are dug into and at every possible place, bulldozers are moving and drilling is done with heavy equipment to find the valuable stones. Since Chinese people across the border prosper the jade rush is on, prices rise and fortunes are made, its somehow like the gold rush in the West US. The main share on the mining business have 5 private companies in cooperation with the state.
Jade Mine in Phakant Kachin State Myanmar
Jadeite Jade Rocks
In a underground Jade Mine
Rough Myanmar jade from the mine
Chinese jade or nephrite mines are many in Qiemo, Xinjiang at the southeast end of the Tarim Basin, around the Kunlun Mountains and near to the Taklimakan Desert. There still are plenty of Nephrite resources and they are traded at the jade bazaar. Traders buy and sell the stones by kilo, this is more or less raw material at wholesale. In recent years China has changed some laws to allow more exploration for mineral resources in the country which was under strict control of the state. The current area for Chinese jade exploration on minerals is around 6000 sqkm. Known reserves are at around 10 locations, at Kesu, nephrite or Chinese jade is found and reserves are estimated at around 2 million tons. In 1995 a nephrite green stone with 1500 kilograms was found, part of this mined minerals are exported to various countries in Asia. This is Qiemo area and most of the mines are in the Altun Mountain stretching over 100 km. Mining is done at around 3,500 meters above sea level, this are the Hotan jade mines which produce around 70% of the mineral in Xinjiang.
Nephrite jade is the real old true Chinese jade, the colors are not as good as jadeite has and it is slightly softer. Today nephrite comes in cabochon cut, round beads used in necklaces or as carvings, shades tend to be darker and some are real dark which leads to black jade.
Raw Burmese Jade.
Burmese and Guatemalan Jade is jadeite only. Most very old pieces of are nephrite, today this is mined in many countries which makes it cheap jade, including the US and New Zealand. Since it is much more abundant than jadeite its much less expensive and that makes it very popular since it is much cheaper.