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Saturday
Feb252006

The Price of Lapis Nephriticus in the Netherlands

The price of Lapis Nephriticus about 1820 in the Netherlands

In the search of ancient sources of Nephrite Jade in Europe, I came across in the homepage  http://euromin.w3sites.net/photosensmp/photos.html , of the picture of an auction catalogue listing minerals with their European origin and the auction or realized (?) price.

I wondered if perhaps Jade or Lapis Nephriticus was one of the auctions items. If its place of origin would be listed, it would pre-date the first discovery of in situ Nephrite in Europe by Traube in 1885

After a little additional digging and with the help of the Curator of the Mineralogical Museum of the l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris, Mrs Lydie Touret ( www.musee.ensmp.fr ), I was forwarded to the Teyler’s Museum in Haarlem in the Netherlands where the original copy was located.

The Teyler’s Museum ( www.teylersmuseum.nl ) is the oldest Museum of the Netherlands and was established 1784 by the will of Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778), a rich textile and silk merchant of Haarlem. He was an avid collector and wanted to bring science and art together for the benefits and enrichment of mankind. His vast collections outgrew his private home in the Damstrat 21 and in 1784 additional buildings, with the famous Oval Hall, were erected. In 1878 a new facade was given to the buildings and the main Museum entrance shifted to the Spaarne, the main river-canal of Haarlem.

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  1. Pieter Teyler van der Hulst
  2. The Museum in Haarlem
  3. The Library


With a couple of e-mails and the help of Mrs. Van Hoorn, the efficient Librarian of the Museum, I was able to quickly locate these documents.

In a set of 5 catalogues concerning minerals, two indeed made reference to Lapis Nephriticus.

The first reference was: Catalogue….du Cabinet du Duc Charles de Lorraine (Bruxelles 1847) p.13 mentioning under No 169: Nephrite (Jade Néphritique, pierre de hache, Beilstein) but without mentioning its origin or price.

The second reference was contained in a catalogue evidently owned once by Matthias Steeven van Geuns, a well-known Dutch Physician, Botanist of the Hortus Botanicus and Professor and Rector of the University of Utrecht.

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  1. M.S. van Geuns
  2. The Hortus Botanicus
  3. The University of Utrecht


In this document: Catalogue… le Professeur M.van Geuns (1735-1817) (fragment) on p.289 and under Nr 144 indeed Lapis Nephriticus was listed!

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Page 288 and 289 of the catalogue of minerals of M. van Geuns, with annotations by hand

 

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Detail of the entry 144: Lapis Nephriticus and 143: Lapis Serpentinus available for 4 Stuivers.

 

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  1. Willem 1, King of Netherlands (1772-1843)
  2. The Silver Guilder of his reign
  3. The historical price trend of silver in US Dollars


The value of these 4 Stuivers (or 0.2 Guilder) can be related to an actually currency, such as the US Dollar, via the value of the silver content of the Dutch Guilder. One Guilder contained 9.6g or 0.338 ounces of silver. In 1817 to 1827 the price of silver was 1.293 US $ and thus the offered pieces of Lapis nephriticus and Lapis serpentines, of unknown quantity or weight, had a value of approximately 8 US cents.

In order to get the value of the 8 US cents of 1817 in today’s US Dollars, I visited the homepage  http://eh.net/hmit/compare/ where one can get an estimates what for example an unskilled workers wage was valued at this time. From this calculation in 1817 8 US cents were equivalent to about 13 US Dollars today or two hours of wage of a fast food counter employee!

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