The Truth about Jade: It’s a Traveling Stone

The Buddha for Universal Peace (Courtesy Jade West)

The Buddha for Universal Peace (Courtesy Jade West)

What’s in a name? Isn’t green what comes to your mind first? I came across surprising facts about jade after contacting the largest mining operation in B.C. for an article about shopping for Jade in Vancouver.

First, forget about Chinese jade, it belongs to the past. The reality is that China has exhausted its supply of good quality jade. It even recently banned mining. Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Canada, miners extract the best stone quality.

Historical documents indicate that Canadian jade had already made its way to China in the late 1800s. It makes sense: Chinese gold miners found and kept jade, considered worthless by European miners. It is suggested that the masterpiece “Dating Under the Moon” carved by Pan Bingheng, in 1930, is B.C. jade.

So you Think you Know about Jade?

The word “jade” is only the commercial name for green nephrite and jadeite. More facts:

• True: B.C. is the world largest supplier of jade.
• True: China is the world largest producer of jade ware.
• True again: If you buy jade in China, it could be Canadian jade, and if you buy jade in Canada, it was carved in China.

Jade is trucked from northern British Columbia as big rough boulders that are then shipped to China where it is increasingly in demand. There, skilled Chinese carvers transform it into jewelry, accessories and sculptures.

Dreaming of a Jade-tiled Bathroom?

True again: Now, might be the time to do it. China recently increased its tariffs on importation of B.C. jade. The consequence? Exporting jade of industrial-grade has become prohibitively costly. The result? Loads of it are waiting in Vancouver warehouses.

The Titanesque Task of Mining Jade

First, there is this…

Mountains in the remote far northwest corner of B.C. east of Juneau, Alaska. Courtesy: The Jade Mine)

Jade mountains in northwestern B.C. east of Juneau, Alaska (Courtesy Jade West)

Then, work begins and must be completed within a two-month snow-free window in the summer. It’s no walk in the park to get heavy equipment and supplies there: no paved roads, rivers to cross, turned over trucks, and bears.

Heavy equipment bites into the mountain (Courtesy: The Jade Mine)

Heavy equipment bites into the mountain (Courtesy Jade West)

Got one, let’s open it!

Slicing is done with a 6-foot diamond saw and diamond wire saw (Courtesy The Jade Mine)

Slicing with a 6-foot diamond saw and/or a diamond wire saw (Courtesy Jade West)

There it is: stunningly green… and what a catch, in 2001: This gemstone quality boulder was named Polar Pride. It was carved into the Buddha for Universal Peace.

Split or sawed, the boulder exposes  nephrite jade (Courtesy: The Jade Mine)

Polar Pride after excavation (Courtesy Jade West)

En route for Vancouver Harbour, and then China…

A jade boulder is loaded into a container on a road 100 miles from the mine (Courtesy The Jade Mine)

Loading into a container on a road 100 miles from the mine (Courtesy Jade West)

Pendants such as those are born from boulders described by Fred Ward in the Lapidary Journal (1998) as “… the newest, brightest, most translucent, greenest, hardest nephrite yet discovered.” They are made of the highest quality of green nephrite (AA): Polar Jade. It is only sourced from the Polar Mine outside of Dease Lake.

A boulder mined in B.C. returns as a treasure made in China (Courtesy The Jade Mine)

Polar Jade pendants carved in China from a boulder mined in B.C. (Courtesy Jade West)

Isn’t jade an amazing stone? Take a visual trip to Northern B.C. to discover how mining jade is a real adventure.



  1. says

    Dear Ms. Arnott,
    I visit Vancouver often, and I will be there again August 12-22. This time I want to find and buy a piece of AA-quality polar nephrite jade, maybe in the rough, or maybe in the shape of an egg or a bear or something. A rock the size of a potato — maybe shaped like a potato! The nephrite I seek is described by Fred Ward in the Lapidary Journal (1998) as “… the newest, brightest, most translucent, greenest, hardest nephrite yet discovered.”

    One piece will do. Please advise — et je vous en serai très reconnaissant.


    Oscar Zambrano.

    • Marie Claude Arnott says

      Hello Oscar – I am glad you got to appreciate nephrite jade. Any of the two stores mentioned in the article is a good place to buy because you’d buy directly from the supplier. Other stores should provide you with a certificate of authenticity without asking for it. Enjoy your trip!

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