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The Rush For Jade in British Columbia

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The Rush For Jade in British Columbia

The Rush For Jade in British Columbia

Infographic presented by Electra Stone

Many years ago, jade used to travel to China along the Silk Road. Today, more and more jade is being shipped across the Pacific Ocean from British Columbia.

China is the epicenter of jade demand and culture, and today’s infographic shows how jade is formed, the rush for BC jade, and how jade gets from the boulder to the market.

How Jade is Formed

Finding high-quality jade is extremely difficult, which is part of the reason it is so valuable. Jade is created in areas of the world that have subduction zones, such as around the Ring of Fire.

Subduction occurs when two tectonic plates collide and one is forced under the other. The elements are carried deep into the earth, where immense heat and pressure creates the necessary conditions for the formation of jade. This process takes 60 million years.

Most of the world’s jade forms in areas with this kind of intense geological activity. Xinjiang, home to China’s most important nephrite jade deposits, his near where the Indian plate is colliding with the Eurasian plate.

In British Columbia, the conditions are similar, and jade can now be found throughout Canada’s westernmost province. Specifically, there are three areas where today jade is mined: Dease Lake, Mount Ogden, and Cassiar.

The Jade Market

The global market for jade is dominated by Myanmar (formerly Burma) where the majority of jadeite is produced. The size of the reported jade market is largely dependent on data from Myanmar. Before conflict and mine shutdowns resumed in the country in 2011, jade sales were estimated to be $3.5 billion per year.

These shutdowns led to a supply gap in jade, and that is where British Columbia comes in: the production of BC jade has increased from 1.7% to 8.3% from 2011 to 2014.

A 2013 Harvard report put out a more in-depth assessment of the global jade market, and estimated it to be $8 billion.

The BC Jade Market is Booming

Demand for the most desired jade, which comes in an emperor green colour, has put significant price pressure on BC jade. Production of BC jade has doubled, and prices for gem quality jade have jumped to $200-$1,000 per kg.

From Source to Market

BC jade can be found in hard rock deposits or in alluvial boulders that have been moved by glaciers over time.

“New mine jade” refers to jade found in hard rock deposits. This is typically more weathered and more susceptible to cracking.

“Old mine jade” is jade that has been dragged by glaciers in boulder form. Only the best boulders survive, and typically these are of high quality.

Jade is similar to gold in that it can be found in a pure form in nuggets in streams and rivers. Often, the most ambitious Chinese buyers may fly in via helicopter to the northern jade sites to buy jade “off the bucket” in cash. This ensures the best quality jade and miners also benefit.

The jade then typically makes its way to a hub like Vancouver to get shipped overseas to China. China is by far the world’s largest market for jade, where it is considered a hard asset and a symbol of wealth, purity, and spirituality. China is also home to the most brilliant jade craftspeople in the world.

Finally, after sometimes years of intricate carving, the jade is sold in major retail centers like Hong Kong or Beijing. Once a finished product, the jade can sell for up to 10x its original price, creating wealth throughout the value chain.

As an example: the Polar Pride Boulder was carved into a massive Buddha and sold for $1 million in 2004.

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Company Snapshot

Company Snapshot: Electra Stone

This company snapshot infographic highlights Electra Stone, the first publicly traded company in Canada to focus on trading BC nephrite jade to China.

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Company Snapshot: Electra Stone

Company Snapshot: Electra Stone

Electra Stone (ELT.V) is a mining company specializing in the development of and exploration for Nephrite Jade and industrial minerals. The Company is in the process of mining the Apple Bay aluminum silicate quarry located on Vancouver Island near Port Hardy, British Columbia. Electra has also recently entered into Nephrite Jade exploration in British Columbia. Total sales and price of B.C. Nephrite Jade have reportedly increased significantly over the past several years according to private producers. Increased interest in Nephrite Jade in South-East Asian countries, specifically China is the primary reason for the rise in demand.

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Jade

The History of Jade: The Emperor’s Stone

Jade has been revered in China for thousands of years. See the history of this gemstone and why people are willing to pay high prices for quality jade.

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The History of Jade: The Emperor's Stone

The History of Jade: The Emperor’s Stone

Infographic presented by Electra Stone

In Chinese writing, it is no accident that the character for “emperor” looks almost identical to the character for “jade”.

In the West, precious gems such as diamonds or rubies were worn by high-ranking people as status symbols. However, in China, it is jade that has been a symbol of status, spirituality, purity, and health for over 9,000 years.

The Origins of Jade

Jade has been mined and worked in China since the Stone Age. In prehistoric sites, jade artifacts include simple ornaments with bead, button, and tubular shapes. It was also used for tools and weapons. Jade later became revered with special significance. Beautiful designs were used for carvings, decorations, ceremonies, furnishings, and jewelry for the Imperial families.

By 3,000 BC, jade became known as “yu” or the “royal gem”.

Xu Shen, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD), details the five virtues of jade in his work Shuowen Jiezi:

Benevolence for its lustre and brilliance.
Honesty for its translucent texture.
Wisdom for its tranquil and far-reaching tone.
Integrity and Bravery for it may be broken but cannot be twisted.

The most wealthy and influential members of society would be buried in jade suits. Extremely costly and taking years to assemble, the thread used to join the pieces of jade would be gold, silver, copper, silk, or other materials depending on the status of the person buried.

The first archaeological discoveries of these suits, of Prince Liu Sheng and Dou Wan of the Western Han dynasty, consisted of: 2498 pieces of jade and 2.5 lbs of gold wire.

The gemstone’s significance to Chinese culture cannot be understated. Entire kingdoms in China have started wars over particularly precious stones.

What is Jade?

Jade is different than other types of valuable gems or precious metals. In fact, the cultural term “jade” refers to two different and similar types of ornamental rocks, both made of different silicate minerals.

Nephrite jade was the very first of these materials discovered in China, and was the traditional jade used and carved since ancient times. Nephrite was so important that the traditional deposits in China are now all but depleted.

There is evidence that jadeite jade, coming primarily from Burma, began to be traded in China on a wider scale in the 14th century. It was harder, denser, and worked easier – it eventually became the form of the gemstone preferred by Chinese artisans and prized by the Chinese people.

Today, most jade traded in China is of the jadeite variety.

However, the country’s traditional nephrite jade is not forgotten. Every athlete’s medal, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was embedded with a piece of pure, natural-carved jade. The gold medal featured a rare form of white nephrite known as “mutton fat” jade.

The Value of Jade

Gold has a price; jade is priceless (Chinese proverb)

Jade is valued differently than other comparable gemstones or precious metals. Jade is not fungible like gold, and jade is not a single polished and cut crystal, such as in the case of diamonds or rubies.

Both jadeite and nephrite jade are stones formed of interlocking microcrystals. Jade comes in different shapes and sizes, and can have impurities or grains in the stone that define its character. This means each piece of jade is unique.

Professional craftsmen look at raw jade’s beauty, flaws, and spirit to determine what shall be carved from it. This potential ties into the price that people are willing to pay for it.

Jade jewelry and artwork are extremely important to China’s culture and history.

This is why buyers are willing to pay a steep price for the finest jade. What does the best jade sell for in China? It sells for the same price per carat as diamonds in the United States.

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