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Saturday
Mar182006

Old Jade - A new simulant for archaic Liangzhu Jades

Liangzhu culture jades are characterized by creamy white to honey coloured, smoothly polished and mostly opaque surfaces. Such surfaces are not easily reproduced artificially. The present day “Neolithic” artists were thus on the lookout for a suitable rock with which they could reproduce better ancient Liangzhu jades showing an aged surface more than just skin deep.

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Liangzhu culture cong recently manufactured in a kind of “old" jade”

During a recent visit of the Hangzhou Antiquity Market, I had noted several sellers which were offering “ancient” small Liangzhu cong’s, beads and awls with a surface aspect and “heaviness” typical of real Liangzhu jade items. When asking provocatively “new Yu item?” the response was a muffled “shi, shi wei gu yu” or yes, yes but old jade (stone)!

I then started to look for such “old” jade roughs and indeed several sellers on the market had such innocuous looking material in small to medium sized, oblong and irregular shaped pieces available for about 30 to 50$ per Kg.

One seller revealed that this material can be found in small quantities in the mountains between Pingyao and Dipu, north of Hangzhou.

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“Old jade” roughs on sale in Hangzhou. Detail of such a fist sized “old jade” piece with smooth, creamy yellow-white surfaces, areas with a fibrous structure and small manganese oxide dendrites.

When picking up the piece I noted the high specific weight and a silky, talcum like rock surface texture. The surface appeared to be naturally smoothened and worn as if someone had rubbed for eons over its surface with a soft cloth.

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“Old” jades for sale

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Liangzhu culture style item in “old” jade

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Small Liangzhu culture style pendants in “old” jade.

Back home I forwarded one of the two small roughs, purchased in Hangzhou, to Doug Nichol, Fellow FOJ and Geologist, for an expertise “what rock is it?”. With the help of a X-ray diffraction analysis, the material was identified as a serpentine type rock with a specific gravity of 2.7g.cm3 containing about:

- 83.8% Antigorite or Mg2.25Fe2+0.75(Si2O5)(OH)4. ( http://www.mindat.org/min-260.html ) and

- 16.2% Talc or Mg3Si4O10(OH)2 ( http://www.mindat.org/min-3875.html )

This composition explained the slightly fibrous texture and the “talcum” feeling.

So please be on the lookout when being offered such realistically looking “ancient” Liangzhu jades!

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Small, 55mm long animal carved in “old jade”

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Damaged neolithic axe blade (copy) with bi-conical hole (95mm length – 70mm width)

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Bi-conical hole with a diameter of 3mm at the junction of the two penetrations.

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Backside of the axe blade in “old” jade with a neolithic Liangzhu jade like surface color and lustre.

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X-Ray diffraction pattern of the “old” jade, courtesy of Doug Nichol, UK.

 

Herbert Giess March 2006

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