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What is Jade?

Types of Jade

What is Jade used for?

 

Where is Jade found?

 

How the Jade trade in Jadeite is conducted today?

 

How the miners distinguish the good from the bad

 

The Power of Jade

 

Why Jade Jewellery from Jadeite?

 

The History of Jade and Jade Jewellery

 

The History of  Jade (Jadeite)

 

W. Griffiths, 1847 - Journals of Travels in Assam and Beyond

 

What is Jade?

Often known as the "Stone of Heaven".

The best Jade Jadeite know as ( Imperial Jade ) is the most valuable Gemstone on earth and is most highly regarded for the manufacture of  fine Jade Jewellery.

Types of Jade

Jade (Jadeite) now most commonly used for the manufacture of Jade Jewellery.

Specific Gravity Jadeite normal 3.34 (3.30-3.38)
Refractive Index Jadeite 1.66
Chemical Composition Jadeite: Na Al(SiO3)2  silicate of sodium and aluminum
Crystal Structure Monoclinic Jadeite granular fibrous crystalline aggregate
Specific Gravity Jadeite normal 3.34 (3.30-3.38)
Specific Gravity Jadeite normal 3.34 (3.30-3.38)
Refractive Index Jadeite 1.66
Birefringence Jadeite .020  (not usually measurable on cut stones)
Dispersion None

                                        

 

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It was a French mineralogist called Alexis Damour in 1863 who first discovered the difference between Jadeite & Nephrite. He named the new Jade Jadeite, that is where the term Old Jade comes from meaning the original Chinese Nephrite. So these days Jade is a collective name for both Jadeite and Nephrite.

 

Testing Jade

 

Mohs Hardness test

 

This is the most important test for Jadeite that is between 6.0 and 7.0. The hardest stone on earth is Diamond at 10. A good quality steel blade can be used as a rough test this has a hardness of 5.5 so if you can scratch your Jade with this it's not Jade at all.

 

Specific gravity test

 

Jadeite is a dense stone with a SG of 3.43. This test is achieved by placing the stone in a heavy liquid to see if it floats or sinks etc, it's a particularly horrible practice as apart from the fact that the liquid used stinks it's also very poisonous so grate care must be taken afterwards to wash your hands carefully. This is the way to sort out the B jade as it's commonly know as because this is filled with a less dense resin it will float. Unless you are testing a piece of Imperial Jade this is just about it. As Imperial Jade is the most expensive gemstone on earth I suggest you leave it to the laborites.                   

 

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Chinese Jade (Nephrite)

Specific Gravity Nephrite normal 2.95 (2.90-3.00)
Refractive Index Nephrite 1.606-1.632
Chemical Composition Nephrite: Ca Mg5(OH)2(Si4O11)2  silicate of calcium and magnesium
Crystal Structure Nephrite fibrous crystalline aggregate
Specific Gravity Nephrite normal 2.95 (2.90-3.00)
Specific Gravity Nephrite normal 2.95 (2.90-3.00)
Refractive Index Nephrite 1.606-1.632
Birefringence Nephrite .026  (not usually measurable on cut stones)
Dispersion None

      

 

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Australian Jade Chrysoprase.

Mainly used for Jade Jewellery.

             Chrysoprase or (Australian Jade) is a bright green stone with good clarity. It has a Mohs scale hardness of 7.0 to 7.5 and is gaining in popularity. In my opinion because looks as good as Jadeite from Burma (Myanmar) at a much reduced price. OK it’s not Jadeite or Imperial Jade but the quality is good and it looks the part for a small fraction of the cost. When it’s is made up into fine Jade Jewellery only experts with testing equipment could possibly tell the difference.  

What is Jade used for?

Jade Jewellery made from  Jadeite is even becoming popular in the west, certainly in the past few years. In the past both Jadeite and Nephrite has been used to make tools, pots and jars as well as ornaments. Nowadays it’s value is too great for such mundane items and is mainly used for fine Jade Jewellery and ornaments.

Jade for the sprit and Healing

As jade gives off a clear tone when struck, it is used for the bells and chimes in ceremonies where it can banish the evil influence by their sound.

It is thought Jade is a pure and concentrated source of Yang energy that can halt or reverse the ageing process and even the process of death it is said according to Taoist alchemy. Jade was said to issue a "jade grease," or harbor a "jade tree," that would grant everlasting life or so it was believed by the legendary Mountain of the Immortals.

 

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Jade wards off infantile diseases if placed around the neck and not removed. It is placed in  the mouth of a corpse to protect the soul. Necromancers used it to raise the soul. Jade bracelets are worn to promote a long life and as a charm to prevent eye infection. It is considered to be the concentrated essence of love. It makes a good healing talisman for the kidneys, urinary and digestive problems.  

Jade: Strengthens heart, kidneys, immune system. Helps cleanse blood. Increases longevity and fertility. Aids eye disorders and female problems. Powerful emotional balancer. Radiates divine, unconditional love. Clarity, modesty, courage, justice, wisdom. Peaceful and nurturing. Dispels negativity. Healing affinity will correspond to particular color of stone. Can you really do with out it?

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Where is Jade found?

Jade, (Jadeite)

Burma or Myanmar is the only known source of Jadeite. It comes from an area in northern Burma (Myanmar) that is 350 km, north of Mandalay which has it’s most northern town of Kanis and the most southern town of Makapin lying just north of Lake Indawgyi. It’s most westerly border is Tawmaw or in the south Hungpa on the Uru River and to the East the town of Lonkin. The administrative and trading center of the district is a small town called Hpakan.

Chinese Jade, (Nephrite)

             Alaska, Canada, New Zealand, Siberia, United States, Taiwan  

China Jade ( Nephrite ) mines in China.

One which happens to be in Liaoling province, where the Hongshan culture was located.

Deposits of jade minerals are relatively widespread and rich in assortment. Jade comes from five known regions, "Hetian jade" from Xinjiang province, " Xiuyan jade" from Liaoning, "Southern jade" from Guangdong, and "Nenyang jade" from Henan have been well known for a long time. According to another source jade mines are found in a source next to Beijing, in Liaoning, Fujian, Guangxi Zhuang, and Hainan.                            

 

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How the Jade trade in Jadeite is conducted today?

Experienced jade traders are said to be able to predict, by studying the outside of the boulder, what the inner color will be, but anyone who has ever seen boulders sawn open can prove the lie in that old wives’ tale. Even for experts, much guesswork is still involved. Before sawing, the surface is carefully examined to select the best place. There is no specific formula for cutting - it all depends on individual judgement and the rough’s features. And let’s not forget luck. In buying, say, a five-piece lot, sometimes all are good, and sometimes all are bad. As the great 11th-century gemmologist, al-Biruni, put it: “God grants honour to some and disgrace to others.”

How the miners distinguish the good from the bad

How do miners separate the quite occasional jade boulder from the thousands of others they also dig up that look so completely similar? If the inexperienced  found it, we would simply have thrown a potential fortune  straight into the neighbour's back yard. The answer is this. Jade boulders ring like a bell when struck with a pick. They feel heavier than ordinary rocks, have a fibrous texture and lack mica-like reflections. Jade also feels slightly sticky when wet. But most importantly, the miners look for “show points,” areas where the green colour shows through the skin. Apparently even the miners themselves sometimes have difficulty identifying the look of heaven.  

On what judgment is a deal is done?

Much of the mystery about the jade trade concerns just how a trader judges the quality of something encased in a rust-like oxidation skin so dense it hides all traces of colour. Traders will often wet the surface of a boulder to better see the colour lurking within. They also utilize small metal plates and penlights. The plate is placed on the surface at a likely spot and a penlight shone through from the side furthest from the eye. This reveals colour in the absence of glare from the light. Traders and miners look for something they call pyat kyet (literally ‘show points’), which are areas where the skin is thin enough to see through. And if there are no such show points? Good question “Next”    

 

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The Power of Jade

A long time ago, there was a man who had a miraculous experience which he believed was caused by a piece of jade in his possession. When he died, he passed his jade on to his son. The jade was then passed from one generation to the next with the belief that 'jade keeps you from evil and disasters'. This is part of jade's deep attraction to the Chinese, aside from its intrinsic beauty, also a symbol of protection.  

Why Jade Jewellery from Jadeite?

I think the main reason for jade becoming more popular in the west is because apart from it’s rare beauty and it’s polished silky finish it has been up until now relatively unknown other than by the Chinese communities around the world. However my favourite colour is not green but Lavender but most people when first introduced to jade only think of green.   

I began taking an interest in Jade when I was looking for a present for my girlfriend while on a business trip in the Far East. To my astonishment she actually liked it when I returned, which if you knew her as I do you too would have been surprised as well. I then mentioned it to a friend of mine Allen Dining. He was at that time a jeweller, having like me been a few things before including a Policeman, it raised his interest and when he inspected the few items that I had returned with, he asked me to bring some back for him on my next trip. I did this and he took the lot with out quibble at the price. Tragically he didn’t see the full profit from his initial investment as 1 year later he died from a massive brain tumour. If it where not for him and my ex girlfriend I would not be doing this today.  

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 It was on subsequent trips that I began to realize that there was a demand that at that time was not being properly satisfied. I introduced Fine Jade Jewellery into my hometown over 2 years ago. At first only a few people where even aware of it’s value but since then the love affair with jade has spread the length and breath of the British Isles.  

I introduced Fine Jade Jewellery into my home town in 1994. At first only a few people were even aware of it’s value but since then the love affair with jade has spread the length and breath of the British Isles  

It is different. It is something that as yet your friend doesn’t have. The value of jade according to it’s quality is so varied that you can buy a nice carving of a Happy Buddha pendant for as little as $20.00 dollars US increasing to the same thing in Imperial Jade for thousands. My range is such that you can always find something new. On my sourcing trips to China I am always surprised by the amount of new items to add to my collection. This being the case it’s terribly difficult to keep my web site up to date. If you don’t see what you want ask anyway as I may well have it or be able to obtain it for you.  

 

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The History of Jade and Jade Jewelery

Chinese Jade (Nephrite)  

            At some time around 2300 BC,  a large number of the major civilizations of the world collapsed, simultaneously it seems. The Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Early Bronze Age civilization in Israel, Anatolia and Greece, as well as the Indus Valley civilization in India, the Hilmand civilization in Afghanistan and the Hongshan Culture in China - the first urban civilizations in the world - all fell into ruin at more or less the same time. Why? It’s becoming more widely believed that it was due to the impact of a comet. These theories have come more to the accepted possibilities since the impact of the commit Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994. Other theories are volcanic and earthquakes.  

A large amount of jade ornaments were found in the site of the Hongshan culture which existed prior to its collapse in about 2300BC. The jade was and still is an expensive gemstone. In the Hongshan culture, the jade ( Nephrite) was used for various purposes. Whether it was used as a currency or it was used as a jewellery item, it was believed to be more precious than gold. At the site itself, there were several jade stones that had a pinkish color but the source of that jade was never found ( later these where discovered to be Jadeite). There is no concrete evidence to where the jade stones were brought from and that still remains a mystery as this is not a colour that is normally associated with Nephrite.  

 

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In 1884, a mineralogist Heinrich Fischer wrote a paper " On Stone Implements in Asia". In studying Chinese stone celts and implements, he discovered a single specimen, which he believed to be of nephrite. He found that its edge was straight, which was attributed to the continual sharpening of the edge which proved that humans carved those stones. Another interesting kind mentioned by Fischer is a group of stone celts in the South Kensington Museum in London. " The are said to be of jade; their mineralogical diagnosis, however, is coffee-brown to a yellowish green, and at least four out of every six are remarkable for being engraved with antique Chinese characters, the names of their former owners". With these observations Fischer had to wonder if China had been explored sufficiently to know whether there was a stone epoch. He thought that those stones could have been brought from a different place as a souvenir of their ancient homes. However, this notion seemed to be contradictory to his prior observation of Chinese symbols. It proves that those stones are indigenous to China. Yet, his thought has a valid point.  

John Anderson is considered to be the first to discover stone implements in China. While he was in China, he saw a stone implement on sale. Later on, he started collecting them. The stones turned out to be of jade. By further studies, the Anderson collections were then found to be the productions of the Shan tribe of Yun-nan, the earliest settlers of that region, and not of the much later colonizing arrivals, the Chinese. However, these stones remain of the geographic area of China.

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To this day, no one knows exactly how the jade was brought up and mined at that time. In some instances, they were found lying down on the ground, some with ancient Chinese symbols. Even, the mineralogical diagnosis was unclear. In the 1920’s the jade stones were found to be of two kinds. The jade stone could be of nephrite and could be of a jadeite. A nephrite is a form of amphibole, which is a complex hydrous silicate. A jadeite is a gem form of pyroxene, which is related to amphiboles, it is a sodium aluminum silicate. Both types have colors ranging from brown to yellow to green, but only jadeite has a pink variety.  

The Hongshan culture, which was located in Liaoning province, had several kinds of jade ornaments. Some of those ornaments had a pinkish appearance. It was later found to be of jadeite. To this day, no one knows where the Hongshan culture acquired. From this, you can come up with two assumptions. The first assumption is that pink jade was totally exhausted from a nearby mine, thus leaving no trace from where it came. The second assumption is that it came from a source not yet known and was forgotten about 6000 years ago.  

 

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Jade (Jadeite)

The history of Burma’s jade mines in the West is a brief one. While hundreds of different reports, articles and even books exist on the famous ruby deposits of Mogok, only a handful of westerners have ever made the journey to northern Burma’s remote jade mines and written down their findings. Occidental accounts of the mines make their first appearance in 1837. Although in 1836, Captain Hannay obtained specimens of jadeite at Mogaung during his visit to the Assam frontier (Hannay, 1837), Dr. W.Griffiths (1847) was the first European to actually visit the mines, in 1837 (Griffiths, 1847). The following is his account, as given in Scott and Hardiman (1900–1901):  

          In 1888, two years after their annexation of Upper Burma, the British dispatched a military expedition to the jade mines. Accompanying the troops was an Englishman, W.Warry, whose account of the history and working of the mines is one of the best. According to Charles Crosthwaite (1912), Chief Commissioner of Burma for 1887–1890, Warry was the expedition’s advisor on Chinese affairs:  

         He belonged to the Chinese Consular Service, spoke Chinese well, and understood these difficult people as well as an Englishman can. He was on most friendly terms with the Chinese in Burma, and could trust himself to them without fear. (Crosthwaite, 1912, The Pacification of Burma)  

         Warry’s description of the mines was given in the Myitkyina District Gazetteer (Hertz, 1912) and is reproduced here in its entirety:  

 

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         The jadestone or nephrite, has been known in China from a period of high antiquity. It was found originally in Khoten and other parts of Central Asia, and being of a brilliant white colour and very costly, it was held in high esteem as symbolical of purity in private and official life. The green variety of the stone seems to have been extremely rare, but not entirely unknown, for attempts are recorded to produce its colour artificially by burying white jade in juxtaposition with copper. The discovery that green jade of fine quality occurred in Northern Burma was made accidentally by a small Yunnanese trader in the thirteenth century. The story runs that on returning from a  journey across the frontier he picked up a piece of stone to balance the load on his mule. The stone proved to be jade of great value and a large party went back to procure more of it. In this errand they were unsuccessful, nobody being able to inform them where the stone occurred.  Another attempt, equally fruitless, was made by the Yunnan Government in the fourteenth century to discover the stone; all the members of the expedition, it is said, perished by malaria, or at the hands of hostile hill-tribes. From this time onwards, for several centuries, no further exploration in the jade country seems to have been undertaken by the Chinese. Small pieces of the stone occasionally found their way across the frontier, but the exact source of the supply continued unknown.  

         The year 1784 marks the final termination of a protracted series of hostilities between Burma and China, and from this time dates the opening of a regular trade between the two countries. Adventurous bands of Chinese before long discovered that the jade-producing districts lay on the right bank of the Uru river, and a small but regular supply of the stone was now conveyed every year to Yunnan.  

 

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         Impracticable roads, a malarious climate, and an unsettled country prevented the expansion of the trade. Some twenty or thirty Chinese at the most went up into the jade country each season and a very small proportion of these ever returned. In the Chinese temple at Amarapura is a long list containing the names of upwards of 6,000 Chinese traders deceased in Burma since the beginning of the present century to whom funeral rites are yearly paid. The large majority of these men are known to have lost their lives in the search for jade. The roll includes only the names of well-known and substantial traders. Could the number of smaller traders and adventurers who perished in the same enterprise be ascertained, the list would be swelled to many times its present size.  

         The earliest route followed by the jade traders led from Momein to Kunyung Lien and Chansi on the Yunnan frontier. Here the Kachin Hills were entered and a week’s journey over exceedingly difficult mountain-tracks brought the travellers to Kachins-Yimma on the Irrawaddy, a place which appears to be some distance above Talawgyi. The river being crossed here, the parties made their way as best they could towards Hsimu (Seikmo) [Sate Mu] in the valley of the Uru river, which they usually reached after a toilsome march of some ten days. The Hsimu quarries were first discovered in 1790; they yielded a very brilliant jade, pieces of which are said to have been sometimes exchanged at Momein for their weight in silver.  

         In 1798 the Chinese traders at Ava, with the assistance of the Burmese Government, opened up a new route to the mines, namely from Ava to Menrua (Monywa), thence up the Chindwin and Uru rivers to Serua (Seywa), from which place the mines then worked were distant some two days’ journey by land. The trade in jade now developed rapidly, and Serua, being the depot, rose into considerable importance. After some years, however, this route became insecure owing to the hostility of certain Kachin tribes who commenced to waylay and rob caravans; and the original Kutung (Kuyung) route being for similar reasons unavailable, another new overland road was adopted, namely from Katha via Mawlu, Mohnyin and Loastun (Lawsun) to Endaw (Indaw); thence three days to the mines.  

 

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         The direct road into China via Bhamo had been known for centuries, but fear of the Kachins appears to have deterred traders from making a regular use of it. Even cotton from Lower Burma was constantly sent up by river past Bhamo to Tsenbo (Sinbo) or to Talaw, and was conveyed thence by mules into Yunnan. In 1805 the first consignments of jade were sent down the Mogaung river to Tsenbo (Sinbo), where they were given into the charge of the cotton caravans; and from 1807 for some years a favourite route for jade was from the mines by way of Myuhung (old Mogaung), Tapaw, and Hokat to Talaw on the Irrawaddy, whence the stone travelled overland with the cotton caravans via Sima, Tachai (the frontier between Burma and outlying tribes dependent on China) and Sanda (Santa) (the frontier of China proper) to Momein (Tengyueh). This route is still used to a small extent. It is under the protection of a powerful Chinese family at Tachai called Chao, to whom travellers pay a fixed sum for safe conduct.  

         Early in the present century the Burmese Kings seem to have become aware of the importance of the jade trade and of the revenue which it might be made to yield them. In 1806 a Burmese Collectorate was established at the site of what is now the town of Mogaung, and a guard of some thirty Burmese troops under a Military Officer was regularly stationed at the mines during the working season to protect the trade and to maintain order. This force was always accompanied by the Amatgyi, or hereditary noble, of the Mogaung district, whose special duty was to control the hill-tribes. The principal Kachin Sawbwas [princes] were also in the habit of meeting the Burmese official in Mogaung and escorting him up to the mines, where they provided him with entertainment during his stay.  

         Mogaung now became the headquarters of the jade trade in Burma. Comparatively few Chinese actually went up to the mines; the Kachins themselves brought down most of the stone to Shuitunchun, a sandbank opposite Mogaung, where a large bazaar was held during the season. The Burmese Collector imposed no tax upon the stone until it was ready to leave Mogaung, when he levied an ad valorem duty of 33 per cent, and issued a permit which was examined by his deputy at Tapaw, one day’s journey from Mogaung by river. After this the stone passed freely anywhere in Burma without further charge or inspection. The value of jade was determined for purposes of taxation by an official appraiser. This officer, however, by private arrangement with the traders and the Collector, estimated all stone about one-third of its real value. The actual duty paid was therefore small and business proceeded smoothly, cases of friction between the traders and the customs officers being of very rare occurrence. All payments were made in bar silver. The metal used was at first fairly pure, but it was soon debased by a large admixture of lead. Rupees did not come into general use until 1874.  

 

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         Besides the duty leviable at Mogaung, the stone had to bear certain charges, authorized and unauthorized, at the mines and Namiakyaukseik (Nanyaseik), one day’s journey from the mines:—(1) The Burmese officer at the mines imposed a monthly tax of 1 tael (about 4 annas) on everybody who came to trade; from this charge Burmans and actual workers in the mines were exempt; (2) a further sum of 2.5 taels (about 10 annas) was charged for a pass which was issued for each load of jade leaving the mines for Namiakyaukseik; (3) at Namiakyaukseik 4 taels (about a rupee) was paid on the arrival of every load to an agent of the Mogaung Collector permanently stationed there. Of these charges the Chinese regarded the first and third as legitimate, and the second as an unauthorized gratuity to the subordinates of the Mines Officer. All the above charges seem to have varied slightly from year to year.  

         The Kachins levied no toll on stones at the mines or proceeding down to Mogaung. Their rights appear to have been well understood and respected. They were regarded as the absolute owners of all the stone produced in their country. This ownership was never directly called in question by the King of Burma. As I shall point out below, the furthest length he went in this direction was to exclude all competition during the years when he bought jade from the Kachins. The Kachins on their side acknowledged the sovereignty of the King of Burma by admitting his officers to mines; by allowing them to purchase a certain quantity of stone for the Kings’ use at a nominal price; and by acquiescing in certain charges imposed by those officers and in certain  interferences at the mines, whereby the price of their stone was injuriously affected. I shall advert below to the rights of Kachin Sawbwas over their own people engaged in the jade-mining.  

         Under the system just described, the jade trade continued to flourish for many years. The period of its greatest prosperity is comprised within the years 1831–40, during which time at least 800 Chinese and 600 Shans were annually engaged in business or labour at the mines. All the stone was sent by one of the abovementioned routes to Yunnanfu, at this time the great emporium of the trade. The business there was mainly in the hands of Cantonese merchants, who bought the rough stone in large quantities and carried it back to be cut and polished at Canton. In 1841 war broke out between Great Britain and China. Hostilities first commenced at Canton and the effect on the jade trade was not long in making itself felt. Cantonese merchants no longer came to buy stone at Yunnanfu. Stocks accumulated and Yunnan traders ceased to go up to the mines. The Kachins, suffering from this stoppage of business, made urgent representations to the Burmese at Mogaung; and in 1842 a Burmese Officer proceeded from Mogaung to Momein to enquire if any offence had been given to Chinese traders that they did not come as usual to the mines. There was a partial revival of the trade for a few years commencing with 1847, but the disturbed state of Southern China, consequent upon the Taiping rebellion of 1850 prevented a complete recovery; and with the outbreak of the Panthay rebellion in 1857 the roads leading to Yunnanfu were blocked and all business in jade came to a standstill for several years.  

 

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         During the early part of the period just passed in review the Chinese estimate that the average amount of duty collected each year did not exceed Rs. 6,000, the output of jade being small and the official appraisers venal. About the year 1836, when the trade was most flourishing, Rs. 21,000 was the probable amount of the annual collections. After 1840, the duty fell to Rs.3,000 or less, and then it dwindled away to nothing. The above estimates are probably below the mark, as the Chinese would for obvious reasons, be inclined to understate the real amount.  

         The year 1861 witnessed a great improvement in the jade trade. From that date until now, the bulk of the stone has been carried by sea to Canton. In 1861 the first Cantonese merchants [merchant] arrived in Mandalay. He bought up all the old stocks of jade and conveyed them to China by sea, realising a large fortune on this single venture. His example was quickly followed by other Cantonese, and once more the trade in jade revived and numerous Yunnanese went up to the mines. The principal quarries were now at Sanka, a place recently visited by the Mogaung column. Stone had been discovered there many years before, but had been pronounced poor in quality and scarcely worth the troubles of working. Now, however, upon a second trial, it proved to be equal or superior to that from the earlier mines, the colour having, as the Kachins alleged, matured and deepened in the interval. The yearly duty collected at this time probably amounted to at least Rs.27,000.  

         Hitherto the collection of the duty had been in the hands of an official who had paid a very high price at Ava for his appointment and who was in the habit of remitting to the capital only as much as he thought fit—usually about one-fifth of the actual receipt. In 1866 the tax was farmed out for the first time. The price obtained was Rs.60,000 for a three-years’ lease. At the expiration of this term the King, dissatisfied with the amount of the jade revenue, determined to buy all the stone from the Kachins himself, and he appointed a high official to act as his agent at the mines. For a whole season Chinese and other dealers in jade were excluded from the mines; as the stone was dug up, it was purchased by the King’s agent, carried to Mogaung and there retailed to the traders. This arrangement was of course highly unsatisfactory to the Kachins, who first protested against the exclusion of other purchasers and then, finding their protest of no avail, resorted to the much more effectual method of curtailing the supply of stone and producing only pieces of indifferent quality. For this reason the King’s experiment was a failure and the total revenue he secured did not equal the proceeds derived from the sale of the monopoly in the preceding year. The Chinese explain the failure on other grounds. The experiment, they say, was doomed from the outset owing to the inherent impropriety of a sovereign descending into the arena of trade and taking the bread out of the mouths of his own subjects.  

 

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         During the years 1870, 1871 and 1872, the King obtained an annual remittance of Rs.12,000 from the Collector at Mogaung on account of the jade duty. In the following year new deposits of fine jade were discovered at Mantiemho, and the King again determined to become the sole purchaser from the Kachins. On this occasion, too, the revenue he realized fell far below the average of former years.  

         In 1874 the old system was reverted to and the collection amounted to Rs.60,000. Once more in 1875, the King undertook to buy the stone himself from the Kachins and again the experiment failed, though not so badly as on the two previous attempts. About this time the Iku quarry was discovered and, the output being very good, the right of collecting the duty was sold in 1876 for three years for the sum of Rs.60,000. In 1880, Wu Chi, the son of a Canton Chinaman by a Burmese mother, obtained a three years’ lease of the monopoly at the rate of Rs.50,000 a year. In the second year of his term Tomo (Tawmaw) quarries were opened and he made an immense fortune.  

         In the autumn of 1883, Mogaung was sacked by the Kachins, and during the ensuing winter and spring there was no trade in jade. In June 1884, order having been partially restored, a Chinese syndicate represented by Li Te Su took the monopoly for three years agreeing to pay Rs.10,000 the first year, Rs.15,000 the second, and Rs.20,000 the third.  

 

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         The up-country was still unsettled and the lessees, by arrangement with the traders, were permitted to collect duty at Bhamo instead of, as herebefore, at Mogaung. During the first two years of their term, owing to the disturbances connected with the adventurer Hsiao Chin (Hawsaing) and the British occupation of Upper Burma they collected little or no duty; but the proceeds of the third year left them with a margin of Rs.20,000 over and above their total expenses for the three years.  

         The tax was then farmed out by the British Government to Loenpin, the present lessee. Matters between him and the jade merchants did not proceed smoothly. Loenpin from the first was very strict in exacting his rights. He taxed every piece of jade at Bhamo and Mandalay that did not bear plain marks of the stamp of his predecessor, and he declined, contrary to the practice of all his predecessors, to make allowance in cases where the stamp had been obliterated through frequent washing of the stone or by long storage underground. He also refused to admit free of duty certain small re-imports of stone from Momein about which previous lessees had made no difficulty. So far Loenpin was acting within strict legal rights. His action in other respects was more questionable. No duty had ever been collected at Mogaung until the stone was reported         ready to leave the place, when duty was paid and a pass issued. Stone might thus remain at Mogaung for years and change hands many times without being subjected to any charge. Loenpin, however, insisted that all jade should pay duty to him within five days from its arrival at Mogaung. This new regulation bore very hardly upon the small traders in jade. For example, such a man might have been lucky enough to secure a stone worth a thousand rupees. On his arrival at Mogaung Loenpin would say to him: ‘I value your stone at five hundred rupees; pay me the duty (Rs.166) within five days.’ In many cases the owner would not be able to raise this sum at so short a notice; and if he failed to do so, Loenpin claimed to buy the stone at his own valuation, that is to say, for just what it was really worth.  

         In addition to rendering himself obnosious [obnoxious] to all traders in jade Loenpin had roused the apprehension of the Kachin owners of the mines. He had made no secret from the first of his intention, not merely to collect the duty, but to get the actual management of the mines into his own hands. When the Chinese and Kachins, by way of reprisals, stopped the supply of jade for some weeks, he openly announced that this did not matter, for the English were shortly coming to put him into armed possession of the mines which he then intended to work with imported labour from Singapore.  

 

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         The unpopularity which Loenpin had earned among all classes interested in the jade trade culminated last December in the cowardly outrage made upon him at Mogaung, which resulted in his death. The jade-producing country may be roughly described as the large district lying between the 25th and 26th parallels of latitude, and enclosed east and west by the Uru and Chindwin rivers respectively. Small quantities of jade have at one time or another been discovered over nearly the whole of this tract, but the stone occurs in greatest abundance at places near to the right bank of the Uru and considerable quantities have been found in the bed of that stream. The names of the quarries most celebrated in times past for the excellence of their output are Hsimu [Sate Mu], Masa, Mopang and Tamukan [near Haungpa]. All these places appear to be within the boundaries given above and to lie at no great distance from one another. They have all ceased to yield jade except in minute quantities, and they are now termed the ‘old mines,’ Sanka being the latest name added to this list.  

         Jade also occurs at few isolated points outside the area just described. At Mawhooh, one days’  march on the road from Mohnyin to Katha, the Chinese have recently reopened an old quarry the output of which in former years was very rich. And the most celebrated, perhaps, of all jade deposits appears to lie at a distance of several days’ journey from the principal mining districts. The place is called by the Chinese ‘Nantelung,’ meaning the ‘difficult of access,’ or ‘the unapproachable place.’ It is described as [a] large cliff overhanging the Chindwin, the country being passed through being very malarious and infested with wild animals and savage tribes. The stone can only be obtained by swarming up the face of the cliff with the aids of ropes and dislodging small portions with a hammer. The water underneath is deep and the stone is thrown down into the boats specially strengthened by a double platform of bamboo erected across the deck. Many pieces are lost in the river and cannot be recovered except by expert divers. As no Chinese have ventured to go up to Nantelung for at least twenty years, the foregoing particulars may be exaggerated or incorrected in some respects, but there seems to be no doubt of the existence in that region of a deposit of jade possessing remarkable brilliance and value. I have myself at Peking seen specimens of jade said to come from Nantelung and I have heard descriptions of the place very similar to that just given.  

 

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Sanka was the first point in the jade country visited by the Mogaung column. It was reached after a march of some seventy miles from Mogaung in a direction almost exactly north-west. Up to Sakaw, one-half of the distance, the way led for the most part through dense jungle, with a few pleasing breaks of comparatively open forest land. At Sakaw the Endaw river was crossed, and the path onwards became hilly and in some places exceedingly difficult on account of the narrowness of the track and the steep gradients. The country traversed was more open and some magnificent stretches of forest land were passed through. Sanka is situated on the right bank of the Uru just opposite its junction with the Nansant stream. Some twenty years ago Sanka was celebrated for its output of fine jade, but the supply has long been exhausted, and the place is now almost deserted. I spent the greater part of a day in visiting the excavations of former years. Thousands of pits had been dug along the sides of the low hills and in the small intervening valleys. The diameter of the pits rarely exceeded ten or twelve feet at the mouth, and the average depth was about twelve feet. At two of these quarries work was still proceeding. A few Kachins were engaged in lazily bailing out water and detaching small pieces of stone which they brought up one after another to the brow of the pit, and, after a moment’s inspection, pronounced to be worthless. In answer to my inquiry if they ever found a good piece, they replied that this event happened sometimes once in three months, sometimes once in six. The discovery of a good piece, however, recompensed them for many months of labour. The pits   they were working belonged to a small Kachin Sawbwa, who gave them nothing but their food unless they discovered jade, when they obtained a fair share of the price realized. They told me that at many other old mines a few men were still at work who thought themselves lucky if, in the course of a year, they brought one or two pieces to light, and they added that the bed of the Uru is still diligently searched with much the same disproportionate results.  

Sanka is the last of the ‘old mines.’ The ‘new mines’ have produced immense quantities of stone, but none which approaches in quality that yielded by the quarries of former years. It will be  convenient here to indicate briefly by points of difference between the old stone and the new. The value of jade is determined mainly by the colour, which should be a particular shade of dark green. The colour however, is by no means everything; semi-transparency, brilliancy, and hardness are also essential. Stone which satisfies these four conditions is very rare. The last three qualities were possessed to perfection by a large proportion of the old stone, but the dark-green colour was rare and often absent altogether. The new stone, on the other hand, possess abundant colour, but is defective in the other three respects, being as a rule opaque, dull and brittle in composition. These natural defects are aggravated by the injurious methods employed in quarrying the new stone. A peculiarity which gave high value to all stone found at the old mines was that [it] occurred in the form of moderate size round lumps, having often the appearance of water-worn boulders, and small enough to be detached and carried away without undergoing any rough process of cleavages on the spot. At the new mines the stone occurs in immense blocks which cannot be quarried out by any tools possessed by the Kachins, but have to be broken up by the application of heat, a process which, without doubt, tends to make the stone more brittle and chalk-like.  

 

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These defects were not fully realized the first year that the new mines were opened. The output of stone was large and the competition keen. Hitherto only men of some capital had been able to engage regularly in the trade. It had been impossible to do more than guess at the value of any  old stone, for each piece was complete in itself and was usually protected by a thick outer capsule which effectually concealed the colour within. All pieces therefore fetched a high price, as any piece might on cutting prove to be of immense value. But with the opening of the new mines, stone could not be bought in fragments of any shape and size, and it was possible by the processes of washing and holding in a strong light to determine with comparative exactitude the amount and nature of the colour. The trade was thus brought within the means of a large number of men who had not before been in a position to take part in it. There was accordingly a rush for the new mines in 1881, and the speculation in jade reached a height not attained before. Large fortunes were made by those who had the good luck to dispose of their stone before its defects were discovered. In the second year there was a heavy fall in prices, which involved the ruin of more than one of the largest jade merchants.    

 

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W. Griffiths, 1847

Journals of Travels in Assam, Burma, Bootan, Afghanistan, and the Neighbouring Countries.  

  On 9th February [1888] the column marched from Sanka to Tomo (Tawmaw), the largest of the new mines, all of which, namely, Pangmo, Iku, Martiemmo and Mienmo, are situated in the near  neighbourhood. The road was broad, very steep in places, and after the first few miles it continually ascended. It led for the most part through grand forest scenery, the kanyin, the gangaw, and the cotton wood being the prevailing trees. Here and there narrow belts of bamboo jungle were passed through, but the undergrowth was as a rule scanty. At the end of seven and a half miles from Sanka we emerged upon a broad plateau, some hundreds of acres in extant, the whole of which had been cleared for mining purposes. The excavations, which were in some cases of considerable depth, presented the general appearance of a series of limestone quarries at home. The largest quarry measured about 50 yards in length by 40 broad and 20 deep. The bottom was flooded to a depth of a few feet. It is the joint property of 120 Kachins in equal shares, one of which is held by Kansi Nawng, the principal Sawbwa of the district. No work was going on, and we saw no valuable pieces of jade, all such having probably been hidden before our arrival; but round the edge of the pits and along the paths were lying tons upon tons of stone valuable in China, but not sufficiently valuable to repay the cost of transport and the charges by the way. There was a mob of several hundred people at Tomo [Tawmaw] when we arrived. Among them I discovered only three Chinese, who expressed much surprise at our having been allowed to come up; the rest were Shans and Kachins.  

 

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 The Kachins of the jade country are described by the Chinese as very different in disposition to the cognate tribes dwelling between Bhamo and Yunnan. In outward appearance, however, the resemblance was complete; and the language, Father Cadeaux informs me, is identical. But, unlike their cousins of the Bhamo frontier, the Kachins at the jade mines are naturally inclined to be peaceable and honest in their dealings with strangers. They treat all traders with great kindness and consideration; and although sums of money, amounting to several lakhs [one lakh  = 100,000], are often sent up from Mogaung without a guard of any sort, robbery, or attempted robbery, is a thing unknown. They have the reputation of being the most superstitious of all the Kachin tribes. The remoteness of their country, the wildness of the scenery, the peculiar nature of the climate, healthful to them but deadly to strangers, the frequent earthquakes and violent atmospheric disturbances, seem to have inspired in them a more devout belief in the unseen powers and a readier disposition to consult them on the most trivial subjects. In important matters, such as the discovery or the opening of a jade mine, their action is entirely determined by superstitious considerations. In their search for stone they are guided by indications furnished by burning bamboos; when it is discovered, favourable omens are anxiously awaited before the discovery is announced to the Kachin community. A meeting is then convened by the chief Sawbwa, and again sacrifice and other methods of divination are resorted to in order to ascertain if the mine should be worked at once or be allowed to remain undisturbed for a period of years until the colour—such is the Kachin belief—is sufficiently matured. If the indications are favourable to the immediate opening of the mine, the land at and around the outcropping stone is  marked out by ropes into small plots a few feet square, which are then apportioned among all the Kachins present. No Kachin belonging to the same family is refused a share, no matter how far away he may live.  

The ground thus parcelled out, traders are invited to the mine, and after an elaborate ceremonial   is held at the opening of each successive season. This year the sacrifices were on an unusually  large scale, an abundant output being desired in order to meet expected orders on behalf of the  Emperor of China, who is to be married shortly. On the occasion of the Emperor Tungchih’s marriage in 1872, it is said that a sum amounting to four lakhs of rupees was expended at Canton in buying jade for use at the ceremony, and a great impulse was thereby given to the jade trade in Burma.  

 

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The Kachins have always claimed the exclusive right of digging at the mines. They have, however, from time to time allowed Shans to assist them, and in the early days Chinese were permitted to work certain quarries temporarily abandoned by the Kachins. The Chinese, however, found the labour severe and the results unsatisfactory, and they have now for many years contented themselves with buying stone brought to the surface by Kachins.  

 The season for jade operations begins in November and lasts until May, when the unhealthiness of the climate [re: malaria] compels all traders to leave and the flooding of the mines suspends further operations on the part of the Kachins.  

This flooding of the deepest and most productive quarries is the greatest difficulty with which the  Kachins have to contend, and they have spent much labour and money in devising expedients, with indifferent success, to meet it. There were at the time of our visit elaborate bamboo structures over some of the largest quarries for the purpose of bailing out the water. When the floor of the pit can be kept dry a few hours—and this is as a rule only possible in February and March—immense fires are lighted at the base of the stone. A careful watch must then be kept, in a tremendous heat, in order to detect the first signs of splitting. When these occur the Kachins immediately attack the stone with pickaxes and hammers, or detach portions by hauling on leavers inserted in the crack. All this must be done when the stone is at its highest temperature, and the Kachins protect themselves from the fierce heat by fastening layers of plantain leaves round the exposed parts of their persons. The labour is described as severe in the extreme and such as only a Kachin would undertake for any consideration. The heat is insupportable, even for onlookers at the top of the mine, and the mortality among the actual workers is very considerable each season. The Chinese take a malicious pleasure in reminding the Kachins that in the early days when quarrying was easy the right of digging was jealously withheld from outsiders; and they assure them that under present conditions they need not be apprehensive of an infringement of their monopoly.  

 

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The stone is purchased at the mines by Chinese traders. All payments are made in rupees. An expert, or middleman, is nearly always employed to settle the price. These middlemen, who are without exception Burmese or Burmese-Shans, have from early times been indispensable to the transaction of business at the mines; they charge the purchaser five per cent on the purchase-money. The Kansi Sawbwa occasionally takes a similar commission for settling prices between the Kachins and Chinese; and he receives in addition very valuable presents from traders desirous of conciliating his goodwill and securing the first offer of stone he may be possessed of.  

The jade having been purchased is carried by Shan and Kachin coolies to Namiakyaukseik  (Nanyaseik), one long day’s journey from Tomo. The cost of carriage is at present from Rs.5 to Rs.6 a load of 25 viss. Stones too large to be carried by one man pay at a much higher rate, ten viss being reckoned as a load in such cases, and all the men engaged being paid at this rate. From Namiakyaukseik the stone proceeds by dug-outs down a small creek which flows into the Endaw river some three miles below Sakaw, and thence the river is followed to Mogaung. The transport of a load (25 viss) from Namiakyakseik to Mogaung probably costs about half-a-rupee.  

 

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Besides the cost of carriage the stone has at present to pay certain charges levied by Kachins at the mines and on the way down to Mogaung. In Burmese times it was the custom of any Kachin, the output of whose quarry was particularly good, to invite the chief Sawbwa to come and select a piece for himself. Beyond this the Sawbwa claimed no rights over the jade found in his country, except, of course, over such as occurred on his own private property. Now, however, since the withdrawal of the Burmese Mines Officer, the Kansi Sawbwa has assumed and enlarged some of the rights formerly exercised by that official. At present he imposes a tax of Rs.2-8-0 on every load of jade that leaves his country. This charge was levied three years ago, and being an innovation it formed the subject of a protest from the Chinese, on whose behalf the ex-Myook of Mogaung wrote to the Kansi Sawbwa asking him to remit it. The Sawbwa having read the letter cut it to pieces with his dà [knife] to show the contempt in which he held the remonstrance. The payment of this tax, however, is not rigidly enforced; traders who can plead poverty, or who are intimate with the Sawbwa or his agents, easily obtain reduction or exemption.  

 At Namiakyaukseik the stone is subjected to a further charge of Re.1 a load by the local Kachin Sawbwa, who also imposes a tax of Re.1 on every boat coming up the creek; and within the last  few months a family of Kachins at Pentu (Puntu), between Kamein (Kamaing) and Mogaung, have barricaded the river at a narrow point where they take toll of passing boats. Some jade is sent down the Uru and Chindwin rivers on rafts, and the amount would be larger were it not for rapids which render the navigation dangerous. At present little or no stone from the new mines [Tawmaw] follows this route, which is used only for such jade as can still be extracted from old mines in the lower valley of the Uru.  

Some jade, again, is carried direct to China, evading duty at Mogaung. The proportion of the  stone thus smuggled increased considerably last year in consequence of the unfortunate relations between the traders and the jade lessee. It probably amounted to one-fourth of the total output; in ordinary years it is perhaps one-sixth. But the export by this route can never be very large, because (1) the demand for uncut stone in Yunnan is now comparatively small, and (2) the direct overland transport from the mines to Momien costs, in ordinary cases, more than the transport to Momien via Bhamo plus the duty at Mogaung. The present rate of overland carriage from Talawgyi to Momien is Rs.40 for a load of 25 viss. The same amount of jade can be sent from Bhamo to Momien for less than Rs.10. It is certain, however, that some stone will always be smuggled in this way until there is a customs station at the mines. Small pieces of jade possessing high relative value will find this route convenient; and the several hundred Shans who visit Tomo each season and return to China direct will not be prevented from taking back with them as much as they can conveniently carry.  

 

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The Tomo quarries have now been worked for seven years and the stone is by no means exhausted, although the labour of extracting it from the deeper pits is barely repaid by the price realized. In the immediate neighbourhood of Tomo, the jade-supply is beginning to fail. Last year, out of forty-four excavations only three yielded good stone; and I now hear that during the last month thirty-seven new pits have been dug, the jade from which has in every instance proved valueless. This unsatisfactory result is attributed to the recent visit of the foreign troops. But it is confidently asserted that many new deposits of stone are known to the Kachins and will be disclosed in due season. The supply has not failed for upwards of a century, although no one particular mine has ever been profitably worked for longer than a few consecutive years.  

            The demand for jade is universal throughout China, and the price of the best stone shows no tendency to fall. Burma is practically the only source of the supply, and there seems no reason to think that the supply is likely to fall short of the demand. Considering the large area over which the jadestone has at one time or another been discovered, the impracticable nature of the country, covered for the most part with thick jungle, and the rough character of the prospecting, which consists merely in examining large and obvious outcropping stones, it is probable that the jade hitherto discovered bears a very small proportion to that still concealed. It is likely, therefore, that in the jade country our Government possess a source of revenue capable of considerable development. Putting out of sight the probability of future discoveries of jade, there is no doubt that the revenue derived from the present mines might be much improved if free access could be obtained to the country. The introduction of European appliances, which should supersede the present injurious method of working the quarries, would add considerable value of the output, a good part of which is now calcined by the action of the heat. And the smuggling of stone overland to China would at the same time be effectually prevented.  

 

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But a strong opposition from the Kachins must be expected to any innovation proposed by our government. The wealth and influence of the Kansi Sawbwa have greatly increased since the opening of the Tomo [Tawmaw] quarries. Even before the British annexation of Upper Burma he had begun to show some impatience at the yearly visits of the Burmese Mines official to his country; and he had ceased to escort that officer from Mogaung and to provide him with entertainment during his stay in the hills. For the last six years he has been entirely free from surveillance and control, and he has come, not unnaturally, to regard himself as an independent chieftain. It is improbable that he will admit a British garrison to his country without an attempt at resistance. It is true that he made no objection to the recent visit of the Mogaung column. But it was doubtful up to the last moment whether he would take a friendly or a hostile line, and it was well known that a number of the assembled Chiefs were in favour of resisting the progress of the column. Probably the assurance conveyed to the Sawbwa that no interference with his rights was intended, and that the column would return immediately after visiting the mines, had most weight in influencing his decision. However this may be, I am convinced that any future attempt made without the free previous consent of the Kachins to establish a Military or Police post at the mines or to exercise any interference with existing arrangements there, will need to be supported by the presence of a considerable force.

W.Warry, 1888

 

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