Jade—Beauty Under Pressure
Walk into the Chinese collection at
any art museum and you’ll see beautiful
jade carvings—pale green dragons,
yellow pendants, translucent white
flowers, pink vases, and vivid green
tableware used by emperors.
Even before it was prized for beauty,
this precious stone had another attraction.
It is tough, yet easy to shape. So
ancient people often carved it into
axes, blades, choppers, and hammers.
But today its beauty is paramount.
The biblical Flood
just the right kind
of rare, stressful
conditions necessary to
produce the beautiful
Treasured since ancient times, jade
was the stone of choice in the imperial
court of China. Royal families
made burial suits out of jade by joining
square pieces into full-body garments.
Today jade is still prized in China,
where it commands as much as $3,000
per ounce (28.4 grams), depending on
color and rarity.
Jade was popular not only in ancient
Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other
East Asian cultures, but also in the
Americas. In Central America, Aztec
Indians wore it as a talisman, thinking
it had special powers to ease abdominal
So where did jade come from? Astonishingly,
the biblical Flood cataclysm
provided just the right kind of rare,
stressful conditions necessary to produce
this beautiful gemstone.
What Is Jade?
The name jade actually applies to
two rocks made up of different minerals
with different hardnesses.
The hard green jade that was prized
in ancient times comes from a mineral
called jadeite.1 Pure jadeite is white,
and when it’s transparent or translucent,
it’s sometimes called “water
jade.” Impurities from the metal
chromium produce the vivid
emerald-green of “imperial jade.”
Other colors of jadeite include
leaf-green, mauve, and intense
blue, depending on the metal
impurities (iron, manganese, or
The softer jade is from a rock
composed of nephrite.2 The translucent
white to very light yellow
variety, known in China as
“mutton fat jade,” is almost pure
tremolite (one of the two main ingredients
in nephrite, tremolite is rich in
magnesium). It is highly prized today.
The green “spinach jade” is the most
recognized variety of nephrite, though
its color varies from near black to gray-green.
When this softer jade is nearly
emerald green, it is still prized today
for carvings and jewelry.
Widespread Beds of Beauty
The largest and most important
deposits of jadeite are in northern
Myanmar (Burma) and Guatemala
(see map).3 The most important deposits
of nephrite are in northern British
Columbia, Canada; in Xinjiang, China;
near Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia;
and near Cowell, South Australia.
Other deposits are small or have been
exhausted. The locations of these jade
deposits, particularly of jadeite, help
us understand how they formed, especially
as we look at their relationship
to the earth’s tectonic plates.
Gems in the Circle of Fire
Jade deposits are typically found at the boundaries of the earth’s
tectonic plates. Jade comes from two types of rock. Jadeite yields
harder jade, such the famous green imperial jade (main deposits
in Southeast Asia and Guatemala.) Nephrite yields softer jade
(main deposits in Canada, China, and Australia).
Plate tectonics is the study of the
structure of the earth’s crust and mantle,
with an emphasis on the theory
that the earth’s lithosphere has broken
up into large plates that are floating
very slowly relative to one another on
the molten rock beneath them, and
interact with each other.4 These plates
include both continental and ocean-floor
crust (see map).
At their boundaries the plates interact
in three ways, depending on the
directions they are moving:
- Plates slide past one another
along major fault zones.
- Ocean-floor crust is pulled apart
as new ocean floor material rises
where plates are moving apart.
- Plates collide, and one either subducts
(goes under the edge of the
other plate) or rides up over the
edge of the other plate to produce
a mountain range.
Look at the locations of jadeite and
nephrite deposits on the world map
with the crustal plate boundaries
superimposed on it. Notice that most
of the jadeite deposits and many of the
nephrite deposits coincide with current
subduction zones or former collision
Laboratory experiments show us
that jadeite forms at temperatures of 480–1110°F (250–600°C) under the
extreme pressures of 87,000–507,500
pounds per square inch (0.6–3.5 GPa).5
These conditions occur at depths of
12.5–75 miles (20–120 km) below the
earth’s surface, so the jadeite must
have formed in subduction zones
where plates collided.
The hard jadeite formed in
these collision zones as oceanic
crust plates slid beneath the edges
of moving continental plates. As
the oceanic crust was subducted,
it also dragged down slivers of
continental sedimentary rocks
(see diagram). Along the collision
zone, the heat and high pressures
metamorphosed (changed the
form and nature of) those oceanic
rocks and sedimentary rocks and
released very hot, salty fluids. These
fluids crystalized into jadeite, which
is usually found near beds of serpentinite
(the oceanic crust that was
How Jade Formed
Step one: As the earth’s crust broke into plates that crashed into each other
during the Flood, some oceanic plates slid under the continents.
Step two: The sinking plates dragged down slivers of the continents’ sedimentary rocks.
Step three: At lower depths, the heat and pressure changed the rocks
and released hot, salty fluids. These rising fluids crystalized into jadeite.
Nephrite deposits tell a similar
story. They form at temperatures of
210–840°F (100–450°C) and pressures of 14,500–72,500 pounds per square
inch (100–500 MPa), also in the presence
of watery fluids.6
Unlike jadeite, the softer nephrite
deposits form in two different geologic
settings. Many nephrite deposits have
formed in plate collision zones (see
map). However, these deposits are usually
located where slabs of oceanic crust
broke off and shoved up (obducted) into
the sedimentary rocks on the continental
edges. These sedimentary rocks
were being crumpled in the collision
zones, generating intense heat and
pressure that metamorphosed them,
producing serpentinite. The fluids
generated by these processes became
trapped within the serpentinite and
transformed portions into nephrite.
The other geologic setting in which
nephrite forms is very different. Among
ancient sedimentary rock layers is a
type of limestone called dolomite.
Dolomite layers that were metamorphosed
by heat and pressure were
transformed into dolomitic marble.
Often molten granites intruded into
these metamorphosed rocks. As the
molten granites crystallized, hot fluids
were released and penetrated the
dolomitic marble layers, transforming
portions into nephrite deposits.
The Ultimate Pressure
What would cause the plates to
move to such an intense, dramatic
degree that the pressure caused jade
deposits to form?
We who believe the Genesis account
don’t have to look very far for answers!
Genesis 1:9 seems to imply that most
of the land God made on Day Three of
the Creation Week was probably one
supercontinent.7 Then when the Flood
began, Genesis 7:11 says, “
All the fountains”
of the great deep were broken up.
The rare beauty of
jade was produced
by rocks that
had to undergo
by heat, extreme
stresses, and water.
This catastrophic bursting forth of
hot waters and upwelling molten rock
would have caused massive rifts in the
seafloor (“the great deep”). Such rifting
would have rapidly spread around
the globe—including across the supercontinent,
tearing the earth’s crust apart into oceanic crust and continental
The plates, in turn, moved and collided,
causing the heat, extreme pressures,
and hot saline fluids that produced
jadeite and nephrite deposits.
Remember the Flood waters also
swept over the continental plates,
depositing huge piles of fossil-bearing
sediments rapidly across the continents.
In some places the deep burial
of these sediment piles and accompanying
earth movements metamorphosed
those sediments. Molten
granites also intruded into them. Hot
watery fluids penetrated the dolomitic
marble layers and transformed many
into nephrite deposits.
So today’s jade deposits formed out
of a catastrophe, the global Flood cataclysm.
The vivid colors of rare jade
beauty were birthed by heat, extreme
stresses, and watery fluids. Jade has
value for us not only as a precious
stone, but also because it is a beautiful
reminder of one of the most tragic
events in biblical history—the worldwide
The way jade is formed also holds
a devotional lesson for us. How many
times in our lives do we groan and
shed tears under the pressures of trials
The Apostle Paul knew about the
stresses of feeling our world is in violent
upheaval. Under the direction
of the Holy Spirit he penned these
We are hard-pressed on every” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 17).
side, yet not crushed . . . . For our light
affliction, which is but for a moment,
is working for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory
The rare beauty of jade, which was
produced by rocks that had to undergo
transformation by heat, extreme
stresses, and water, should remind us
that our Heavenly Father allows our
trials and afflictions to conform us into
the image of His Son, our Creator and
Redeemer Jesus Christ. In this way He
brings out His beauty in our lives—and
that is ultimately more precious than
all the jade in the world!
University of Sydney and has worked as a consultant
research geologist in both Australia and America. Author
of numerous scientific articles, Dr. Snelling is now director
of research at Answers in Genesis–USA.
https://answersingenesis.org/geology/rocks-and-minerals/jade-beauty-under-pressure/ This article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org