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Geosciences LibreTexts

16.42.2: Nephrite

  • Page ID

    Chemical composition Complex Ca Mg/Fe (calcium magnesium/iron) silicate
    Crystal system Monoclinic
    Habit Polycrystalline
    Fracture Splintery
    Hardness 6.5
    Refractive index ±1.62
    Specific gravity 2.90 - 3.20
    Lustre Greasy to vitreous

    Nephrite has been recognized as a separate type of jade since 1863. It is formed from aggregates of fibrous amphibole crystals. The structure they form is interlocking and tougher than steel. Its colors range from dark green iron-rich varieties to cream colored magnesium rich varieties. It can be found blotchy, banded or singly colored. It's very popular for carving and was used for weapons of the past.



    Common enhancements to nephrite:

    • Fracture filling - wax - conceal cracks and fractures
    • Coatings - wax - to improve luster


    Nephrite is found in Turkestan, Myanmar, Siberia (dark green rocks with black spots), Russia, China, New Zealand, Australia (black stones), USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Zimbabwe (dark green), Italy, Poland, Germany and Switzerland. It has been carved by the Chinese for at least 2,000 years.

    Sources consulted

    • Smithsonian Handbooks, Gemstones, Second Edition 2002

    G&G Articles on Jade 1934-1980

    The GIA has published all the G&G's from 1934 until 1980 online. The organization of the list by subject was done by Joseph Gill.