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Is this Mayan or Olmec Jade?


chris-c

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Hi all, I'm new here, (in case you didn't read my greetings in the introduction thread!) and I have some jade I acquired from an associate of mine in Honduras who supplies me with Honduran black matrix opal, but unfortunately, I haven't been able to contact him to ask what "specific" kind of jade it is.

 

I'm "guessing" because of the area where he lives, and also since all the stone sent to me was from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras that this too is also indigenous to the area, and is most likely local jade to that area, but "where" exactly I am not sure.

 

There are a couple different types, green in a couple different varieties, and what looks like "black" jade, but I am wondering if maybe the dark jade is what they call "Olmec blue" jade, or if it is simple SO dark green that it appears black, or, if it is "actually" known as black jade.

 

Since I'm not an expert on jade, and specialize in many other stones BUT jade, I really don't know much about the specific identification, other than the only TRUE way to tell if it is nephrite or jadeite is to test the specific gravity or light spectrum, (neither of which I can at the moment), and I am aware that to the naked eye, it's kinda hard to really tell for sure just by looking, but I was hoping that maybe someone here might have enough experience with this material that they "are" able to tell via a visual inspection.

 

Here are a few pics, hopefully someone here can tell me for sure what "exact" kind of central American jade this is, if not, no worries, just thought I'd ask!

 

Chris ;)

 

 

I've wet them a bit in some of the pics as they are rough, and also included a few closeups of the material so the grain of the stone is visible.

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Chris,

This is for sure Jadeite, although I am not sure on the black piece. I would assume this material is from Guatemala as the Jade from there is Jadeite.

 

All my best ....... Danny

 

Thanks Danny, I sent you a PM as I was not sure if I was allowed to post business related posts here in this thread, and don't want to get the boot as soon as I just got here!

LOL

 

Chris ;)

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Thanks Danny, I sent you a PM as I was not sure if I was allowed to post business related posts here in this thread, and don't want to get the boot as soon as I just got here!

LOL

 

Chris ;)

 

So, now that you've confirmed what I "thought" I knew, but couldn't be totally sure of, what about that black colored jade?

 

Does anyone here know if it is rare or if it is what they call Olmec Jade or not?

 

If the green one is definitely jadeite, then the black one is also, as they came from the exact same area (wherever that is I don't know!), and if you look closely at the grain of the green and the black, they have the same structure, that almost look like little pressed flakes all through it.

 

One of the black ones is really dark green around the edges, and the other is much darker, and to me at least, has a slightly "bluish" kinda tinge to it almost.

 

Also, that one green piece is brown around the edges, why is that? Is it from the large stone of jade sitting in some kind of wet clay soil and absorbing it over the years or something?

 

Thanks again for your replies!

Chris ;)

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Chris,

The brown you see on the one piece is common in both types of jade, I assume it caused by weathering and or mineralization as the stone waits for someone to find it.

 

I am unpacking all of my goodies while setting up the new studio. I found a jade carving (with brown rind left in places) I've had stored far to long and am thrilled to actually have it in my hands once again. Hopefully in the next few days I'll have a chance to photograph it and put it here on the forum with the story that goes with it .......... All I will say today its one of the finest masterpieces you'll ever see for more reason than one.

 

Almost all black jade is really very dark green, there is true black jade and its not to common. Being true black might not necessarily make it a lot more valuable but it does cost more by the pound over the dark green black. I think the term Olmec Jade is a generic term used for all of the jade from Guatemala

 

I know the highest value jade is the Imperial Green Jadeite and the pure white Nephrite from eastern China.

 

Hope this helps ........... All my best ...... Danny

 

P.S. I'll try to get to your private email tomorrow.

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Hi Danny,

Thanks for your reply!

 

I have also seen some of the ancient Mayan carvings with that brown "rind" still on them as well, kinda strange how they left it on there instead of cutting it off, when the carvings were so intricate and well done, they must not have regarded it as an issue I guess.

 

I'm very anxious to see your prize carving!

 

I received an email from a carver of ancient style carvings in Mexico today, he says similar things to what you did about the jade, and says:

 

"the black jade not Olmec jade, Olmec jade is a light blue transparent stone,very hard like the blue jade from Guatemala and also the black jade is from Guatemala and more south"

 

He also says the blue jade and the black jade are harder than the light green stuff, you can probably substantiate that statement as well with all your carving experience!

 

What I'm surprised about right off when I tried a bit of a "test carving" today, was just how HARD it really is!

 

I used an electroplated diamond dremel tip, and plenty of water of course, and found that when applying the diamond tips to the jade, I found that it was very slow to cut, and the tip would stop, and create a little dip in the jade, at which point it would contently stick at, and keep making that little dip bigger and bigger!

 

I have some cheap diamond tips, and some are more expensive, some are 150 grit, while others are a finer grit, I was thinking about purchasing good sintered diamond carving tips, but did not know just how much better they would be over the cheaper electroplated tips for the amount of money spent.

 

It's really hard to even those out once the bit digs in and creates an uneven spot isn't it!

 

Do you use a stone tip, or a diamond tip? I have a feeling that the tips make ALL the difference when carving jade!

 

Thanks again !

Chris ;)

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Chris,

Welcome to the world of Jade carving, as Jade is the toughest stone on the planet its quite tough to carve. By starting on Jadeite you picked the toughest, as I said Nephrite cuts somewhat easier. If possible find a few pieces and play with them, should be able to find Nephrite pretty easy, much easier that finding Jadeite.

 

If you are using a dermel for your carving this will give you grief, as soon as you can buy a Foredom, the new motors are permanent magnet and hold their torque at any speed slow or fast. If you are using a dremel that has multi speed try using it at its slowest speed, this should help, better yet put it on a dial speed control then once you find the perfect speed for the burr your using it will keep this speed.

 

I use plated diamond tools, I have tried sintered burrs and personally did not like them. I do know quite a few fire agate carvers that swear the sintered tools are the best but I have found that if you don't get heavy handed with the plated burrs they last for a long long time, believe it or not I have some plated burrs that I have used for over ten years, but never with the heavy hand. You have to let the tool do its work, once you start to try to make it work faster than it can .............. There goes the tool.

 

All my best ......... Danny

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Chris,

Welcome to the world of Jade carving, as Jade is the toughest stone on the planet its quite tough to carve. By starting on Jadeite you picked the toughest, as I said Nephrite cuts somewhat easier. If possible find a few pieces and play with them, should be able to find Nephrite pretty easy, much easier that finding Jadeite.

 

If you are using a dermel for your carving this will give you grief, as soon as you can buy a Foredom, the new motors are permanent magnet and hold their torque at any speed slow or fast. If you are using a dremel that has multi speed try using it at its slowest speed, this should help, better yet put it on a dial speed control then once you find the perfect speed for the burr your using it will keep this speed.

 

I use plated diamond tools, I have tried sintered burrs and personally did not like them. I do know quite a few fire agate carvers that swear the sintered tools are the best but I have found that if you don't get heavy handed with the plated burrs they last for a long long time, believe it or not I have some plated burrs that I have used for over ten years, but never with the heavy hand. You have to let the tool do its work, once you start to try to make it work faster than it can .............. There goes the tool.

 

All my best ......... Danny

 

Hi Danny,

thanks for that bit of info, I seem to always pick the most DIFFICULT things in life it seems!

 

Maybe that's why I'm on my 3rd marriage?

LOL

 

You know what they say: "If it doesn't kill ya, it makes you stronger"! Possibly the same is true with jade carving, as once this is mastered, I suspect everything else will be like carving butter!

 

I am now becoming aware of the need for a Foredom, I have wanted one for some time now, but my priorities have been with the cabbing gear I've been acquiring for my opal business, so I had to put that on the back burner, it all takes time to get all that equipment, unless your rich of course, which I and most people are not...lol.

 

The dremel really was adequate for opal, but barely, and I've actually already gone through 4 flex shafts of various models, as I'm buying the "Mastercraft" Canadian tire knockoff brand, and once the flex shaft breaks internally or strips inside, rather than buy a new flex shaft, I just wait for the whole set to go on sale, which includes a flex shaft, and buy that, as quite often the whole Mastercraft dremel kits get marked down from $199 top $39.99 or something like that, at which time I buy one. This is why I now have 6 mastercraft dremel tools laying around here!

 

It's time to purchase a piece of quality equipment that will last for a long time, I know that, and I also know you get what you pay for, right now, I'm just skimping by with the best for what I can afford, that's all.

 

The dremel tools are speed variable, but it really annoys me when I'm carving and my well pump will come on, or the heater will kick in or something, and then my speed goes all wonky, as the electricity in my place is so sloppy! I'm CONSTANTLY adjusting the little speed control slider, as it's SO annoying when it gets faster, then a little faster, then still more fast, until suddenly, it's up at 25,000 RPM and I have to start all over again to try to adjust it!

 

I actually have a speed controller, but never thought to use it with my dremel, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense!!

 

I took a piece of jade that the trim saw cut a bad angle in it without me knowing it, so it is imperfect and definitely a practice piece, and I put a plated diamond flame shaped tip in the flex shaft, and just started carving with it to try to get the feel for the jade a little better, as I've been trying different tips to see what worked the best, and a coarse plated diamond tip seemed to work the best, however I noticed that fine points that are pointing directly into the jade just make a mark on the jade, as if only a piece of steel were hitting the surface, and I had to angle it to the side to make it cut really. I'll post a pic below of my messing around with the tips.

 

Also, I repetitively dunked it in water as I was carving, and carved at slow speeds, yet it still seemed that this brand new tip was worn quite a bit when i was done messing around.

 

The tip is a fairly good one, not the best, but not dollar store either, which is why I figured sintered tips might last longer, but you have a different opinion, so it must be a crappy tip.

 

I also noticed that the tip did not cut that well when the surface of the jade was totally wet, as if submerged in water, but it started to become more aggressive, and cut more material as the jade dried out, but I then added water to ensure I did not burn the bit, but was wondering why it seemed to cut SO much better DRY, as opposed to when water was lubricating it? If I were to cut this jade dry at very low speeds, would it definitely toast the bit? Do some people cut jade dry with diamond tips??

 

What is your favorite basic tip shape, and what is your basic tip size and grit that you use? I considered purchasing sintered bits that I can get for a set of 5 for $15.95 from a wholesale Chinese supplier, the "exact" same ones sell for $39.95 each elsewhere, I can just get them cheap direct from my supplier, and they come in 80, 120, 170, 400 & 600 grits, which would be the best grit for the initial carving stage?

 

Thanks again for your info!

 

Chris ;)

 

Try not to laugh, I was just messing around trying to see how the stone "feels", and how the tips perform, so what better way to "sniff" things out than to carve a nose....LOL

 

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hi my friend ,I work mostly whit guatemalan jade yes is the hardest of all the jades ,the blue and olmec blue they have titanium in the molecul structur that produce e blueis green or deep blue ,the black mmmm!! they are like 15 variations of the black ,but true black it is expencive it sales for 30 dollars e ct ones is cut if carved well you decide the value but it is more valuebol , becouse is hard to find , the blue if it is transparent and clean it can get up to 14,000 dollars e ct this type stones looks more like glass , I have some of that please check some pictures I post here of blue jade and you see if need more info send me e pm good look whit the jade , probabli you but it from denis ,no?? is e very nice guy , if you have eny nice blue I will be interested in to buy , happy new year

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jajajajaj sorry and it will be mayan jade just for area, mayas olmecs ,aztecz use very similar colors , only olmecs look more for the blueis type ,while the mayas go more for the greens , and aztecs too,my favoryte is blue

 

Hi Dante, thanks for your reply!

 

You sound very knowledgeable with the Central American jades!

 

Thank you for all of that great info about it, I appreciate it very much. I have found that with this sort of thing, no matter what the kind of stone is, that you really do need to talk to someone who has either worked extensively with these stones personally, or who "lives" in the region where they come from, which I am assuming that you might.

 

Do you have an example of your work Dante, like a web page or anything? If so, I would love to see it!

 

There are a few web pages that I have seen out there with beautiful Mayan and Central American type jade carvings that have really inspired me, I don't really know "why" I am SO drawn to that kind of art work, (possibly because I am "awake" now, if you know what I mean) and to the Central American culture in general, but I have always been fascinated with their style of carving, and of course, as many people are believers of these days, the Mayan carvings display some themes of "Ancient Alien" astronauts that is very interesting also.

 

The more I research about the ancient cultures there, and the technology they had to build those temples and the amazing stone work that they did, the more I think that a tiny jade carving must have been EASY for them to do!

 

How "did" the ancients carve their jade anyhow? I'm guessing that it was hard to find an electrical outlet to plug their Foredom or rotary tool into around 5,000 years ago right? hahaha.

 

Did they grind away at it with an abrasive hand tool, or did the chisel it and then polish it later? I always wondered how the ancients accomplished such beautiful carvings BY HAND when WE have such a hard time working this jade with POWER TOOLS!!

 

Chris ;)

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hi thanks , i have e site www.dantestudio.com or just go to my facebook is " studiodante " and I live in can cun mexico , the thing whit jade is not if it is the best or the middle or the bad , is more like in the way I feel it is e conecction you just make whit jade , it really makes e bond whit your soul and body , in my case i have carved sooooooooooo may stones in my life but the fisrt time i carved jade ,men it touch something inside of my now i just can do somthing else yes i steel carve other stones but jade is my favorite i have to admit I been poluted whit to the bone i am jaded jajajajajajjajajajajajaj enjoy this new material and adventure that is infront of you is e great ride ,have fun

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Thanks Dante!

 

It's only just about figuring things out right now, what bits to use, what special techniques to use, what speed, how much pressure to apply to the stone as your carving it, all that stuff, getting a feel for it, you know what I mean!

 

Once I figure it all out, I'll be able to start getting serious about doing some real carving work, and once I do that, I'll post the results here for people to see and critique.

 

Thanks again for the encouragement!

 

Chris ;)

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What did the jade carvers from the original jade carving cultures use to carve the stones?

 

 

I've been "trying" to find that out, searching online, but cannot seem to find that info!

 

Lets see, a recent show I watched on jade said only 2 things can cut jade, steel, or diamonds, and I know that the Mayans didn't have steel (well, maybe anyhow...lol) although they "may" have had diamonds, so in my mind, the ONLY thing you can cut something with is a material of equal or greater hardness, and that makes me wonder if they used JADE carving tools??

 

If you look at the New York diamond cutters that cut those huge diamonds into smaller ones, and then shape them, they use one diamond on a mandrel to spin against another piece of the same diamond once they cleave it in half to shape them both against one another, do you think the ancients did the same with Jade?

 

I cannot think of anything else they would have had to do it!

 

Chris ;)

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I've been "trying" to find that out, searching online, but cannot seem to find that info!

 

Lets see, a recent show I watched on jade said only 2 things can cut jade, steel, or diamonds, and I know that the Mayans didn't have steel (well, maybe anyhow...lol) although they "may" have had diamonds, so in my mind, the ONLY thing you can cut something with is a material of equal or greater hardness, and that makes me wonder if they used JADE carving tools??

 

If you look at the New York diamond cutters that cut those huge diamonds into smaller ones, and then shape them, they use one diamond on a mandrel to spin against another piece of the same diamond once they cleave it in half to shape them both against one another, do you think the ancients did the same with Jade?

 

I cannot think of anything else they would have had to do it!

 

Chris ;)

 

 

Here's something interesting regarding some of the techniques used by the Mayans to carve jade.

 

Boy, those fake carvings sure are "crappy" lol.

 

 

From internet source:

 

Jadeite is extremely hard. On a mineralogical scale from one to ten (diamonds being ten) jadeite comes in between 6.5 to 6.8, or in less technical terms, harder than steel. A piece of jade can be used to quickly put an edge on your Swiss Army Knife or machete. The fact that the Maya, who had no metal tools anyway, could carve and drill such a hard material is a remarkable technical achievement. We know some of the techniques as a result of early Spanish reports. Jadeite was cut by the sawing action of a cord drawn back and forth along grooves, using hard sand particles and water as a cutting agent. Holes were reportedly drilled with hollow bird bones filled with wet abrasives, starting at one end of the piece, then working from the opposite end such that the hole would be completed in the middle. As a result of this method, the holes would have a funnel-shaped entrance point, unlike a hole produced by a modern steel drill which leaves a round hole with the same diameter throughout. For a long time fake jade pieces could be identified by the absence of the funnel shaped entrances on drilled pieces but eventually the counterfeiters got wise and purposely introduced the funnel shape. These modern copies are often carved, shaped, drilled and then buried in chicken manure for several weeks to give it a time-worn appearance.

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hi , my friendfor what I know the mayas use other stones are moch harder then jade ,not as tough as jade but mooch harded , like garnet , agates or the best of all flit ,the mayas have no minerals ,becouse the mayan peninsula is very jung ,but the only mineral that yoy will find in the field is calciom base stones like flint and in fact the mayan flint is very very heard , you can cut jade whit flint very nice it cuts like butter , but it just breaks and breaks you have to know how to do it but you can drill jade whit the flint ,in e relative fast time, try it out , is not e plasent expirience , you cut your fingers over and over but get the job done jajajajajaja, they allso used bones of several animals many times the natural proces is very fast , if you carved jade whit rubys is fast too , theres is e supostly source of mexican rubys by the acapulco area , I hear many stories of that , but never confirm my self , that I know is that in guatemala they do have garnets , that are moch harder then jade , that will do the job or in brazil they are sand diamons depocits of e fine grit they are not very big but hey they are diamonds , they you go , I have e magacine made by the mexican natural and history museum , and one of the subjets was how the prehispanic peaple carved the jade in particular , and they show all this info , and as they know very good naturals glue that will hold the abracive , hope this helps , plus they have no rush to pay taxes or rent or the school they just work for the king or die , ajajajajaja a that will keep you working jajaja for shure ;)

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I'm certainly not the expert here that's for sure, I'm sure that ALL of you have much more carving experience than I do, but I CAN tell you that the Nova Scotia agate that I have collected myself, and have been cutting on my slab saw is WAY harder to cut, and has actually dulled one of my very thin blades, I was too lazy to change my opal cutting blade to my proper one and paid the price...LOL

 

Sometimes one never learns!

 

Oh well, cutting a few slabs of fire brick sharpened it up again, hehe.

 

I'm guessing that agate is like most other materials, it varies in hardness, sometimes, even within one piece of stone, but I think in general, everything that one carves no matter what it is requires one to get the "feel" for that particular stone, and the term "harder" may or may not be the same thing as being "difficult", as I think that some carvers find it easier to carve a "harder" (on the mohs scale) stone than a softer one. I am starting to learn that myself now.

 

Personally, I am liking carving jade already over opal, because with opal, if you make a mark, it's there and it occurs SO easily, so you REALLY have to have a SOFT touch, but with jade, you can work it bit by bit and be more deliberate in your strokes of the burr, without the worry of pressing too hard and permanently cutting off too much material, I like that feeling!

 

It may take longer to carve jade, but I am finding that one has much more control over the material simply because it IS so hard, and I'm glad you brought up the agate thing, as I intended on attempting to carve some, but forgot about it, so thanks for reminding me!

 

Now having said all that, maybe someone who "actually" has the answer to that question can chime in, sorry for the rant, I know it didn't answer your question, I just wanted to put my 2 cents in as usual and just share my feelings on things, I'm really enjoying the freedom of carving, as opposed to being limited by a conforming calibrated cabochon, after awhile, that gets SO boring!

 

Chris :)

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I'm not a rock carver. I wish I was but the engraving is such a high and wide learning curve it would suffer with a new hobby.

 

We have agate in the gravel pit we live in. I use a slab of white/red agate/jasper/chalcedony type rock to polish my gravers. The white frosty area is softer than the red opaque area but still very hard. We even have what I call a black agate in the current pit. Some great waxy yellow jasper I'd love to carve. So little time.......

 

John

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I'm not a rock carver. I wish I was but the engraving is such a high and wide learning curve it would suffer with a new hobby.

 

We have agate in the gravel pit we live in. I use a slab of white/red agate/jasper/chalcedony type rock to polish my gravers. The white frosty area is softer than the red opaque area but still very hard. We even have what I call a black agate in the current pit. Some great waxy yellow jasper I'd love to carve. So little time.......

 

John

 

Wow, that sounds so kewl John!

 

It's nice to know that wherever you live on the planet, there is "SOMETHING" carvable and attractive somewhere below your feet, one just has to "find" it!

 

There is something very satisfying about going out, collecting a rock or stone of some type, and then carving it or polishing it in some manner, and then have something that you yourself have retrieved from the earth and created something beautiful out of it, knowing that before, it was just an ugly lump laying on the ground somewhere!

 

You should collect that stuff and sell it, even if you don't use it yourself much!

 

Chris :)

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Not sell..... I'm just not the salesman type even though I've a business degree. The whole process of listing, boxing, shipping is a huge pain for me. I'd rather be carving with my limited time. Besides that the people that do sell rock have some great stuff at great prices.

 

From what I've seen our agate isn't what most people want. The Yellowstone Moss Agates are what most people think of when they think Montana Agate. Someday I'll photograph a sample of our rock and post them for the rock carvers to evaluate. The variety is what's amazing.

 

One time I was running a huge loader and spotted a rock from my seat 13-14 feet up. You actually spot a lot from a loader perch. It was like a long skinny ostrich egg but a bit bigger. Perfectly smooth and cloudy on the outside. When you held it up to the sun it looked to be a perfectly clear purple throughout. I kept it in my old VW van that I parked when the motor died. It disappeared from the van over the fall/winter. Mostly I wonder what it was. It was softer than agate as the gravel had worn it smooth. Agate stays pretty rough. I suspect it was a large clear piece of obsidian. I hope whoever took it enjoys their "find".

 

When you dig in a gravel bank your the very first human to see what's there. The best place to find the special rocks is to walk the road where the gravel is spread and after a rain in the a.m. or evening. We keep all our 'finds" in a larger and larger pile by our front door.

 

You did hit on my purpose earlier. I like the part of using what's found underfoot. My wife Pam and I would like to use our rock in projects just because they are the part of the beauty we find by just stepping outside and looking for what's already here. So we keep adding to the pile till we get time.

 

I'll plug my best friend, my wife's website. She a great visual artist that also uses words in her art: http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com/

 

Thanks for the thread on Jade. I learned a lot.

 

John

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