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2500 BC diamonds for polishing

Some may find this article from Harvard of interest - Chinese used
diamonds to polish sapphire-rich stone in 2500 BC

Laurie
http://www.designerbeads.com

Chinese used diamonds to polish sapphire-rich stone in 2500 BC
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-02/hu-cud021105.php

Find provides evidence of earliest known use of diamond and
sapphire by prehistoric people

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Researchers have uncovered strong evidence
that the ancient Chinese used diamonds to grind and polish
ceremonial stone burial axes as long as 6,000 years ago -=96 and
incredibly, did so with a level of skill difficult to achieve
even with modern polishing techniques. The finding, reported
in the February issue of the journal Archaeometry, places this
earliest known use of diamond worldwide thousands of years
earlier than the gem is known to have been used elsewhere.

The work also represents the only known prehistoric use of
sapphire: The stone worked into polished axes by China’s
Liangzhu and Sanxingcun cultures around 4000 to 2500 BC has as
its most abundant element the mineral corundum, known as ruby
in its red form and sapphire in all other colors. Most other
known prehistoric artifacts were fashioned from rocks and
minerals no harder than quartz.

“The physics of polishing is poorly understood; it’s really
more an art than a science,” says author Peter J. Lu, a
graduate student in physics at Harvard University’s Graduate
School of Arts and Sciences. “Still, it’s absolutely
remarkable that with the best polishing technologies available
today, we couldn’t achieve a surface as flat and smooth as was
produced 5,000 years ago.”

Lu’s work may eventually yield new insights into the origins
of ancient China’s trademark Neolithic artifacts, vast
quantities of finely polished jade objects.

Lu began the research in 1999, as a Princeton University
undergraduate. He studied four ceremonial axes, ranging in
size from 13 to 22 centimeters, found at the tombs of wealthy
individuals. Three of these axes, dating to the Sanxingcun
culture of 4000 to 3800 BC and the later Liangzhu culture,
came from the Nanjing Museum in China; the fourth, discovered
at a Liangzhu culture site at Zhejiang Yuhang Wujiabu in 1993,
dates roughly to 2500 BC.

“What’s most amazing about these mottled brown and grey stones
is that they have been polished to a mirror-like luster,” Lu
says. “It had been assumed that quartz was used to grind the
stones, but it struck me as unlikely that such a fine finish
could be the product of polishing with quartz sand.”

Lu’s subsequent X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe
analysis, and scanning electron microscopy of the four axes’
composition gave more evidence that quartz could not have
polished the stones: Fully 40 percent corundum, the
second-hardest material on earth, the only material that could
plausibly have been used to finish them so finely was diamond.

To further test whether diamond might have been used to polish
the axes, Lu subjected samples of the fourth axe, 4,500 years
old and from the Liangzhu culture, to modern machine polishing
with diamond, alumina, and a quartz-based silica abrasive.
Using an atomic force microscope to examine the polished
surfaces on a nanometer scale, he determined that the axe’s
original, exceptionally smooth surface most closely resembled
-=96 although was still superior to -=96 modern polishing with
diamond.

The use of diamond by Liangzhu craftsmen is geologically
plausible, as diamond sources exist within 150 miles of where
the burial axes studied by Lu were found. These ancient
workers might have sorted diamonds from gravel using an
age-old technique where wet diamond-bearing gravels are run
over a greased surface such as a fatty animal hide; only the
diamonds adhere to the grease.

The next known use of diamond occurred around 500 BC; it was
used after 250 BC in ancient India to drill beads. The
earliest authors to reference what is likely diamond, Manilius
and Pliny the Elder, lived in Rome during the first century
AD.

Lu’s co-authors are Paul M. Chaikin of New York University;
Nan Yao of Princeton University; Jenny F. So of the Chinese
University of Hong Kong; George E. Harlow of the American
Museum of Natural History; and Lu Jianfang and Wang Genfu of
the Nanjing Museum. The work was supported primarily by
Harvard University’s Asia Center, with additional support from
MRSEC grants and Princeton University’s Department of Physics.

Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University

Laurie,

I find your message and the accompanying artical very interesting.
Especially because I have over the past 40 years had periodic
references to the Chinese use of diamond in their lapidary from
very early times. I have never been able to find the specific
text(s) that refer to this practice but in discussing the subject
with some of my old Chinese friends several have made reference to a
’K’ungCh’iehTao… The Tao means knife but I have never found the
characters for K’ungCh’ieh to confirm them. (Note: K’ungCh’ieh may
also be a reference to the green color of the Kingfisher bird to
describe some of the finest jades. At times it was used in place of
’Yu’ the common character for jade. Thus they may have been
referring to a ‘jade cutting knife or implement’!)

The ancient Chinese who practiced lapidary were part of a closed
society that for the most part did not document the secrets of their
trade (with a few exceptions) nor shared it with outsiders. So,
except for the later dynasties, most of the ancient tradecrafts were
lost.

While I never had an opportunity to study ancient Chinese carvings
as closely as Mr. Lu, I have handled hundreds if not thousands and
have always been mystified by the accuracy of the work not to
mention the velvety polish. Now, Jade is not all that hard and by
long hard work could proabably have been carved using quartz or
garnet and polished with mixtures of naturally occurring oxides.
But some of the agates and harder stones I have seen (such as
corundum signets and seals) are a totally different story.

A fascinating study to be sure! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

coralnut wrote:

    I have never been able to find the specific text(s) that refer
to this practice but in discussing the subject with some of my old
Chinese friends several have made reference to a
'K'ungCh'iehTao....  The Tao means knife but I have never found
the characters for K'ungCh'ieh to confirm them. (Note: K'ungCh'ieh
may also be a reference to the green color of the Kingfisher bird
to describe some of the finest jades.  At times it was used in
place of 'Yu' the common character for jade.  Thus they may have
been referring to a 'jade cutting knife or implement'!) 

Hi Don…List…

Until the mid 1700’s, jade in China was essentially nephrite
jade… Then came the influx of jadeite from Burma (Myanmar)…

Because of it’s toughness…jade was used as a source material for
tools and weapons… Nephrite was at one time known as “axe stone”,
among other names…

So…
Could indeed be cutting knife or implement…

And I’ve seen that kingfisher reference also somewheres…the
Lovejoy antique/murder/mystery novels…?

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

Gary

Already knew all that! The K’ungCh’iehTao was not used to describe
a jade item (read either nephrite or jadite) but rather referred to
as an impliment or process to cut the jade (read nephrite or
jadite). The kingfisher reference may in fact be found in many
western novels…raises the mystique.

In fact, one character pronounced Ch’ieh has two possibly related
meanings… The first is to ‘cut’ or ‘carve’ and another character
prounced exactly the same means ’ to wipe off’ or ‘rub clean’
(polish?). The character Tao may also be a problem . In one
iteration it means ‘knife or sword’ but another character also
pronounced Tao means ‘way or doctrine’ as in Taoism. So, it could
mean a knife to cut or a doctrine or way of cutting or polishing.

The term K’ung may really be K’un which means 'a fine type of jade
(undefined).

Put it all together and you have something like ‘A doctrine (or
practice) of cutting (or polishing) fine jade’. The only problem
is…the concept of using diamond to do all of this should be in
there somewhere …maybe in a written doctrine as yet
undiscovered!?

Nice try Gary, but no brass ring this time around.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

    Put it all together and you have something like 'A doctrine
(or practice) of cutting (or polishing) fine jade'.  The only
problem is...the concept of using diamond to do all of this should
be in there somewhere ....maybe in a written doctrine as yet
undiscovered!? 

Ahhhhh…I see now…

In the prior post you mentioned…

Thus they may have been referring to a 'jade cutting knife or
implement'!) 

I took that as reference to the tool or implement, rather than as a
process for cutting jade…

I wonder if the lack of mention of diamond might be a “secret” part
of the doctrine…?

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

This is part of what makes Orchid great. The continuing discussion
of “2500 BC diamonds for polishing” is something that I knew nothing
about. I find the that has been provided by our group
fascinatng and informative. Where else could we have such a wide
ranging group of topics, ever changing, provocative, etc. Thanks to
all of you who keep it interesting. And thanks to Hanuman and Ton
who keep it all flowing to us.

Joel

Joel Schwalb Studio
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com