Sign up for our newsletter |

Home Page


Hydrogrossular Garnet
Gem Profile

This will make you laugh, but not because it’s funny.

Remember the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August? Remember seeing President Bush and his wife Laura sitting in the stands with other heads of state before swimmer Michael Phelps won the first of his record-breaking eight gold medals?

Well, here’s the joke. Those medals were made, in part, of white jade. Human rights groups say that the jade was from Burma. If the charge is true (and there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to support it), Michael Phelps took home medals made of a gem material that was banned from U.S. importation by Congress that very month—at the repeated urging of the First Lady. True, the ban didn’t take effect until after the Games, but there’s a feast of ironies in American athletes importing what is soon-to-be contraband material.

Alas, lovers of jade are stuck with famine. What will the American jeweler’s life be without imports of Burmese jadeite? For most of our readers, Burmese jadeite is nowhere near as important as it is in China. For them, this embargo is a nuisance, not a crisis.

Nevertheless, the question remains: Is there replacement jadeite available that has the same legendary hue, translucency, and toughness as the Burmese variety? The answer seems to be no—at least as far as green stones go. Turkey is producing purple jadeite that, at its best, is semi-translucent. However, purists refuse to call it jadeite because its jadeite component is only 50 percent—compared to Burmese jadeite’s 98 percent purity. There is jadeite from Russia, too, but supplies are very limited.

That leaves nephrite—if you want to stay in the domain of jade. While I greatly admire British Columbia’s abundant verdant-green nephrite, many say it is no match for Burma when it comes to translucency and color subtlety.

Filling this vacuum requires stepping outside the sprawling jade family to a spectacular jadeite impersonator: hydrogrossular garnet.

Now here’s a second laugh. I may be decades late in preaching the glories of this garnet. But preach I will.

1 2 next