Guatemalan Blue Jade

December 3, 2009

A few months ago, a friend gave me two pieces of Guatemalan “Olmec Blue” jade for carving.  It is a a muted translucent bluish-green, like seawater.  Guatemala has produced green jade since ancient times.  The source for the dusky bluish stone of Olmec carvings remained a mystery until 1999, when flooding from Hurricane Mitch revealed outcrops of blue jade in a remote jungle river valley.  Prospectors brought small pieces of gem-quality jade to the Tucson gem shows a few years later.  It remains an expensive material and difficult to obtain.  Compared to other jades, it’s also a challenge to carve, especially in small sizes, since a lot of it contains innumerable pockets of crumbly crystals that can give even highly polished stones a slightly pitted “orange peel” surface texture.   I cut a thin slice off the end of one piece and carved this claw-shaped pendant while removing as little material as possible from the tiny slice of stone.  The back isn’t shown, but the two sides are identical.  The other pendant is fossil mammoth ivory with a very similar bluish-green color.  Both are about 1.5″ long, including the sterling silver settings.  The blue color in the jade is due to iron and small amounts of titanium; in the fossil ivory it is due to vivianite, an iron phosphate.  Both pendants will be part of a necklace with beads and mixed metals.

Guatemalan Blue Jade & Fossil Mammoth Ivory


2 Responses to “Guatemalan Blue Jade”

  1. Blue Jade? said

    Gorgeous but this photo shows silver or gray, not blue. The one on the left is semi-translucent which is weird as blue jade is an opaque stone. It might have been dyed if it’s translucent.

    • ironwing said

      The color may show different on your computer monitor, but the jade is translucent greenish blue (it’s opaque in large pieces and translucent in small thin ones like this – the carving is only about 1/8 inch thick, and is carved the same on both sides). I’ve even seen rare examples of “ice jade” (translucent to nearly transparent white) from the same locality. My specimens aren’t typical. They are small pieces of AAA grade material and were some of the first of the rediscovered “Olmec Blue” to be brought to the US. I haven’t seen any Guatemalan jade in several years so I have no idea what the stuff they’re mining now looks like.

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