Jade: a Gemologist's Guide

Book Review by Renée Newman


   By Richard W. Hughes (Ed.) et al, Eric Hoffman co-author of two chapters. Bangkok: Lotus Publishing – RWH Publishing, 2022. 534 pp, cloth, 9.5 x 11 inches. $200. Book description and ordering information here.



Jade, a gemologist’s guide is an absolute masterpiece, and that’s not surprising. Nobody was more qualified than Richard Hughes to edit, write, coordinate and publish a comprehensive book on all aspects of jade. He had already written and produced the most authoritative and complete book on corundum— Ruby & Sapphire: a gemologist’s guide, His travels to the ruby mines of Myanmar (formerly Burma) gave him an opportunity to also experience firsthand the mining and culture of jade. When he saw his first piece of jade in Mandalay, Burma in 1977, he was smitten and resolved to become a jade trader. In Chapter 2, he describes his experiences with jade in Burma, New Zealand and China. Then in Chapter 6, he discusses the history, mining and trading of Burmese jade along with the identification and classification of jadeite rough and boulders. Richard is one of the few people to visit Russia’s remote jadeite mines. Details of his journey and of the jadeite deposits in the Polar Urals and Khakassia are provided in the chapter on Russia and Kazakhstan. The page on Kazakhstan was written by Richard’s companion and guide in Russia, Nikolai Kouznetsov, a gem dealer and miner based in Moscow.

Most of the many books on jade tend to focus on the history, symbolism and artifacts of jade. While Jade: a gemologist’s guide includes extensive information on these topics, it provides more information relevant to gemologists and appraisers such as the identification, grading, valuation, sourcing, carving, and auction prices of jade, and it’s more up to date. Twenty-two of the world’s top jade experts have written or co-authored other chapters for this book. To illustrate their high caliber, I will discuss the accomplishments of six of the authors, the ones who I know personally and who have contributed to my books and jade PowerPoints. You can read about the other authors on pages 8–11 of the book.

Dale Blankenship, author of the chapter on USA jade, is an award-winning carver from the state of Washington. He collects and carves jade from California, Washington, Wyoming and Alaska so he has an intimate knowledge of the types, qualities and localities of the jade from these states, which he shares in the chapter. Dale’s work is fun to look at because much of it shows contemporary scenes such as a Hollywood cameraman at work, a barber cutting hair and a grasshopper playing the violin. A photo of the “Abandoned 1934 Ford tow truck” he carved in Alaskan jade is shown in the chapter along with USA jade carvings of other artists.

Eric Hoffman, owner of Far East Gallery, specializes in Chinese arts, antiques, and antiquities— especially jade, snuff bottles and books about them which he sells at HoffmanJade.com. He has written valuable articles on how to determine if old Chinese jade is authentic or fake, so he was an ideal choice for coauthoring with Zhou “Adam” Zhengyu the chapter on the identification and evaluation of nephrite jade. It not only describes and has photos of jade imitations, it also explains how to identify jade, dyed nephrite and lookalikes with basic gemological tests and Raman and infrared spectroscopy.

John Koivula is the co-author with Edward Gübelin of the highly acclaimed Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones: Vols. 1–3 and author of the Microworld of Diamonds and hundreds of articles. He introduced fiberoptic illumination to gemology and discovered many of the micro-characteristics now routinely used in the separation of treated stones from natural gems. His chapter on inclusions in jade is mainly visual and includes a page discussing the types of inclusions in jadeite and nephrite. Particularly impressive are the two highly magnified photos on facing pages showing the fibrous structure of nephrite and the granular structure of jadeite in polarized light.

The Canadian jade chapter was written by Kirk Makepeace, founder of Jade West, one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of nephrite jade, operating four mines in British Columbia. Canadian jade jewelry and carvings are sold by his sister company at jademine.com and at the Tucson GJX Show. Besides discussing and illustrating the history, deposits and grading of Canadian jade, Kirk relates the challenges he has experienced while mining and promoting British Columbia jade. He is also an expert on Siberian nephrite. He details its history, occurrences and qualities in a section of the chapter on Russian jade. Curiously, white is the most prized color for nephrite jade. According to Kirk, prices for Russian nephrite rough as of 2021 were US$10–$500/kg for green nephrite and $100–$2000/kg for light-colored nephrite.

Jeff Mason is the owner of Mason-Kay in Colorado, the leading jadeite jewelry company in the U.S. and the only one in the U.S. to use infrared spectroscopy to test for polymer impregnation. As a result, jewelers throughout North America rely on Jeff to test and estimate the value of their jadeite. He and gem dealer Roland Schluessel are co-authors of the chapters entitled “Grading & Valuation of Jadeite” and “Symbolism & Color in Chinese Art”. These two chapters go well beyond the usual discussions of quality criteria and jade-related symbols and will increase your appreciation of jade. Included in the valuation chapter is a sample jadeite appraisal form, which will be useful to appraisers. Additional information and photos on jade valuation are provided in the chapter about jade at auction by Stewart Young and E. Billie Hughes.

Dominic Mok is the founder of the Asian Gemmological Institute & Laboratory Ltd, the oldest established gemological laboratory in Hong Kong (AGIL.HK.com). In 1993 it issued the first ever Jadeite Testing Report in Hong Kong using an Infrared Spectrometer. Dominic’s 39 years of experience testing jade makes him well qualified to co-author with Richard Hughes the chapter on jadeite jade identification. Detecting treatments is the biggest challenge in identifying jadeite. Today high-tech equipment such as an FTIR spectrometer is required to confirm, for example, that a $50,000 jadeite bangle is not a treated jadeite bangle worth $500 or less. The chapter also covers easier methods of detecting jadeite imitations and treatments including analyzing the sound of a jade bangle when suspended from a string and tapped with a metal object or a piece of untreated jadeite.
Jewelry historians and museum curators will especially appreciate the following chapters:
 • “The Jade Age: History of Jade in China” by field archaeologist Jiang “Chris” Chenglong
 • “Hetian Jade: The Original Stone of Heaven” by Zhou  “Adam” Zhengyu, Richard Hughes & Liu Yicen
 • “Stone of Kings: Jade in Mesoamerica” by archaeologist Mary Lou Ridinger
 • “South of Xinjiang: Mughal Jade” by Susan Stronge
 • “Lost and Found: Jade in Japan” by Ahmadjan Abduriyim. I was surprised to learn that Japan has the oldest jadeite culture in the world which dates back to about 7000 years ago.
 • “Archaic Jade & Its Identification: Shang & Han Dynasty Examples” by Qi Lijian & Zhou “Adam” Zhengyu
 • “Hidden Treasure: Jade in Print” by Richard Hughes & Eric Hoffman.
 • “Four Treasures: A Jade Bibliography” by Richard Hughes

The three chapters below will be of special interest to jade carvers and collectors:
 • “Pounamu: New Zealand” by Richard Hughes and Donn Salt, a famous New Zealand jade carver who developed many of the techniques used by jade artists in the west today
 • “The Craft of Art: Carving Technology in China” by Wang Mingying and Shi Guanghai
 • “The New Picassos: Contemporary Jade Carving in China” by Andrew Shaw, the only foreigner accepted as a master jade carver in China

The geology of jade is not overlooked. Chapter 4 provides an introduction to its geology by George Harlow, curator of minerals and gems at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The chapters discussing jade sources add further details.

One omission in the book that I thought should be included in the glossary of jades & jade lookalikes is omphacite jade. A definition or explanation of the term could help readers understand jade reports of western labs that identify some jade as omphacite jade, even when previously identified as jadeite jade. In April 2014, GIA announced in an article entitled “The Jadeite/Omphacite Nomenclature Question” that its lab reports would identify green omphacite as “omphacite jade” and explained why.

The glossary defines kosmochlor jade as “Maw-sit-sit from Myanmar”. Even though maw-sit-sit contains the minerals kosmochlor and jadeite, it does not contain enough to be classified as kosmochlor, jadeite or even jade by gemologists. An excellent discussion of maw-sit-sit is provided on page 126 by William Larson, president of Pala International, and illustrated with superb photo examples from his collection.

The illustrations in Jade, a gemologist’s guide are outstanding and its graphic layout and design are first-rate throughout. The photos alone will make the book worthwhile for jade enthusiasts who don’t speak English. If you buy, sell, appraise, collect, wear or write about jade, you need Jade, a gemologist’s guide. Buy it now while the book is readily available and before it appreciates in price. Classics like this often end up as hard-to-find collectors’ items.


Copyright © 2022 by Eric J. Hoffman (Home Page)

Originally published in ASJRA Newsletter, xxx 2022