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Monday
Mar292004

B.C. Nephrite Report, 2004

By Kirk Makepeace

I mine three of the four nephrite deposits in British Columbia—Polar, Kutcho, and Ogden. Ogden remains closed but stands to reopen shortly as market conditions demand some of its unique jade. The other mines, including Cassiar, with which I have no involvement, worked this summer.

Polar: Polar remains one of the most popular jades for our Asian and North American clients. Polar at its best is ideal for great jewelry and sculptures. Lower-grade Polar, with its tendency to be harder than other nephrites, makes great accessory products such as souvenir carvings, tiles, etc.

Unfortunately, the best of Polar production appears to be over. As the mine goes deeper into the mountain, costs increase enormously so the viability of the Polar mine for long term production becomes increasingly doubtful. About 40 tonnes of high-grade material remains in our Vancouver inventory. The price of this material is rising as demand increases and the likelihood grows that what we have is the “end of the good stuff.”

In 2004 we removed a total of 70 tonnes from Polar, but less than 10 percent was high-grade.

Mining will continue through 2005, but mining beyond that date depends on quality and demand.

Kutcho: A new jade tile facility recently opened in Mexico, which resulted in my optioning the Kutcho jade claims for their production needs. They removed approximately 150 tonnes of B.C. nephrite, the bulk of which was for jade counter tops, tiles, and sinks. Designers and architects are increasingly interested in jade for its architectural backlit properties combined with the lure of its exotic name and its structural superiority. One of the premier hotels in Las Vegas will be unveiling a wall of jade in January, 2005.

Kutcho still holds the largest nephrite deposits on earth, but producing for traditional jade uses is difficult because of rising mining costs. The success of larger scale production for tiles and similar products will allow the production of jewelry and carving jade as a by-product. This combination of uses appears to be a key factor in continuing to operate Kutcho.

Cassiar:The former asbestos mine will likely never be reopened to produce asbestos. However, the infrastructure remains—roads, buildings, and the massive open pit containing the jade deposit. Once the mine closed, management allowed jade scavengers to go through the vast (measured in millions of tonnes) waste dump of serpentine rock in search of blasted and otherwise discarded jade pieces that had never been a priority of the original mine.

Using hydraulic excavators, the jade pickers sift through the rock and pick up pieces of jade ranging from a few lbs to 1-2 tonnes. Although most is of very poor value, they do find enough of the unique chrome-colored and dark green jade to pay their costs of operation.

In 2004 a new access road is being blasted into the old open pit to try to reach the original jade veins. Some very high-grade jade remains at this site, but the costs will be high and production limited. Demand for the unique properties of this jade has allowed prices to escalate to meet the high costs associated with this mining operation. Cassiar jade will be available in limited quantities at prices from $20-$50/kg for bulk exports to China, more than double what it sold for before the asbestos mine closed. Expect smaller amounts available to lapidary and small market users as well as prices about $20-$50 per US pound (not kilos).

Current state of the world’s jade market:

Recently the world market for stone use in home and commercial development has soared as people are searching for newer, higher-quality slabs of stone. Jade may become popular as a high-end dimension stone. Mohawk Oil, which owned some early jade leases, tried unsuccessfully to sell 4” x 4” counter top tiles. Changes in diamond technology and costs of cutting and polishing now allow the efficient production of jade in a wide variety of products such as floors, walls, solid counter tops, sinks, and almost any other architectural use one can imagine.

Traditional markets for nephrite remain the same. The bulk is used for inexpensive carvings made in Asian factories. Consumption has leveled off to approximately 150 tonnes per year from B.C., down from our 1000 tonnes per year in the late 1970s.
One change, and this is a welcome one, is the use of the higher grades of jade for expensive jewelry, either hand-carved, solid jade pendants or Polar jade set in 14 or 18 kt gold. The New Zealand demand for carved pendants has risen dramatically; we have a long waiting list for solid dark green jade from British Columbia.

How B.C. fits into the world market

B.C. continues to have the only operating nephrite mines in the world, and it remains the main source of nephrite production. New Zealand mining has all been closed down because of the “jade settlement” with the Maoris. Nephrite deposits in Siberia are being worked sporadically but no mine exists, and much of the material now in the market is from old Soviet-era production. However, with much lower operating and environmental costs than Canada, the Siberian deposits could soon replace Canada as the major producer. Infrastructure problems remain a major hindrance to the Russian jade industry. The very nice “Vitim” white jade deposits near Lake Baikal continue to produce jade, but pure white has become very rare so prices have soared. The bulk of the production is off-white or brown jade exported to South Korea. Most of the good white is exported directly to China.

Alaska deposits remain closed, and jade deposits in Wyoming and California are mainly hand-mined for lapidary and collector use only.

China has started to produce green nephrite, but to date the quality remains well below the carving grade produced in Canada. The exception is white jade still produced above Khotan, in far western China, but again the price has soared, and little, if any, is available for export.

Nephrite Pricing, 2004:

The bulk of the pricing has remained steady, except for jewelry-grade nephrite rough, which is rising.

Prices in Canada, stated in US dollars:

Grade aa (jewelry) $20-$50/kg
Grade a $10-$15/kg
Grade b (carving) $5-10/kg
Grade c (tile and industrial grades) $1-2/kg

These prices are for bulk exports (mine run), based on 5000-20,000 kg purchases. Prices for small collectors, users, individual carvers would be double this.


Nephrite Jade Output from Canada, 2003-2004

2003 about 150 tonnes

2004 about 125 tonnes (normal markets) plus 100 tonnes for dimension stone


What’s hot and what’s not?

Hot: good grade Polar and Cassiar nephrite.

Not: normal green nephrite with black spots


A Final Thought from Kirk Makepeace:

Jewelry sales reflect the largest increase in total nephrite sales. The public is beginning to discriminate between nephrite sold as souvenir trinkets and nephrite featured in fine jewelry. The appreciation of nephrite as the original Stone of Heaven combined with reality that the gemstone is not enhanced bodes well for B.C. jade.



Polar nephrite jade pi disc. Mined in B.C. Carved in China.
Fred Ward collection. Photo ©2004 Fred Ward




Polar nephrite jade bangle. Mined in B.C.... carved in China.
Fred Ward collection. Photo ©2004 Fred Ward

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Reader Comments (21)

I'm a bit bummed that the chinese ,mass consumers of jade ,get a better deal on the polar jade than a small lapidary jade carver as myself.I feel mass production seems to de-value the art and in turn the value of the beautiful polar jade.I understand that a large order takes less man hour power thus more cost effective but I feel a local artist as my self should be able to get a good price even though I cant afford to buy 5,000 kilos.I just get pissed to see the super wealthy big companies getting a better price when the starving poor local artist,like me, gets hit where it hurts,my empty bank account. Stu from Santa Cruz ,California
May 2, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjadestu
This response is for Stu in Santa Cruz, CA.
Stu, in business, sales, and purchases it's just about the same all over the world. If you wanted to buy one bag of candy the seller would state his price and you'd have to pay it. But if you came to the wholesaler and agreed to buy 10,000 bags of candy, you would expect and get the bags at a much better price. And so it is with jade. Buy a lot, and get a better price. That's business. Fred Ward
May 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFred Ward
I have a 19 Ton boulder of nephrite/jade. I am looking for a buyer to purchase the entire boulder. I am taking offering now. The boulder is now located in reno, nevada. I have the documents and photos. You can write to Amber at mniac2001@yahoo.com or call me at 775-745-1920
September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Bouchard
I have in my possesion one 80 lb block of the jade from the Ogden Mountain mine it was left to me in my fathers will in 1981. the jade came out of the mine in the late 60's or early 70's. It is of jewellry quality and an awesome block, it has shiney glitter to it.It is a beautiful green translucency. I would say it is close to the picture that you have of the bracelet.do you know what it might be worth on todays market? Any info will be greatly appreciated. Thank you Karen Cunningham
October 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkaren Cunningham
Stu from CA, I've been a jade lover for 35 yrs. Good jade rough is difficult to come by. If you want good rough, you must pay the price. Establish a business relationship with whomever you buy, and then later, maybe, the price will go down. That's the way it is. Just be happy to get real jade. It's a 'buyer beware' situation out there: 1) there are good sellers out there who are selling the genuine article, 2) there are people who are good-hearted but do not know what they are selling (they've been duped by someone else), and 3) sellers who are dishonest. You must know your stuff and establish a good business relationship. So I just say, grab that fine polar jade at what you can afford.
November 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie Lee
I have a 8 Ton boulder of nephrite. I am looking for a buyer. I am taking offering now(65 EVRO per kg). The boulder is now located in Russia. I have the documents and photos. You can write to stalivar@inbox.lv
November 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNefrit
I don't know a lot about jade or art but I was very impressed to discover a beautiful little town in British Columbia called Lillooet. This place has used it's historical and geographical connection to jade deposits to recreate itself around a jade theme.

My wife bought a beautiful piece of locally crafted jewelry and I purchased a nice chunk of raw material which looks cool on our window sill.

People who are involved in the field probably know about Lillooet already. If not, I recommend it as an interesting place to check out.

Gerry Williams
Sooke, BC
January 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGerry Williams
I am looking for high grade Polar and Cassiar nephrite as long as normal green nephrite with black spots rough. couple KGs weight size will be best.

Any information would be appreciated.

David Cui
Pickering, ON
January 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid cui
hello, about 30 years ago i recieved a flying goose made of jade.goose has a wing span of approx.3 inch..has C3 etched on bottom.i'm pretty sure item came from BC.would like info on artist if possible,and piece. thank you, jack duckett McIndoe Falls,Vermont
February 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjack duckett
I have many large jade stones from The Polar mine.They are of excellent quality.I am looking to sell them for $10 per pound.I can deliver anywhere in B.C.
February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Barbondy
Hey jack duckett- I also have a flying goose made from jade from British Columbia. My parents bought the sculpture when we were on a vacation when I was little. I wish I knew the artist. Do you have any idea how to find out how much $ it is worth ? I would like to sell it but I won't give it away ! It is solid green, no black. I have heard New Zealand has a waiting list for solid dark green jade from British Columbia. I will check that out.I hope you found out some more info. about yours.
March 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjadelady
I am wondering if there are any jade carvers in B.C. who can produce a large quantity of work? Are there any factories set up? Any carvers out there interested?
September 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
The New Zealand demand for carved pendants has risen dramatically; we have a long waiting list for solid dark green jade from British Columbia.
January 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertoronto home staging
Hi Todd Barbondy,
If you want to sell the jade for 10 dollars/lb, please contact to me at 713 868 1269
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Hi guys!
Just wanted to drop a line to say that I have just completed my very first attempt at working with the Polar Mine Nephrite, and that I am extremely happy with the way that it is turning out. Granted, I still have a little bit more to do to it. Unfortunately, I was unable to place a photo here to share.

Thanks Nikki and Kirk!
October 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeprekanRocks
Hi Todd Barbondy,

Please contact me through my email, zhangxin0987@gmail.com if you still want to sell your jade. Thanks!

Xin
March 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterxin
would be interested in buying 100 kg carving grade bc jade.
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjim

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