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Experience with synthesizing jade


#1

Does anyone on Orchid have any experience with synthesizing jade?

One of the particular aspects of its crystal growth I wonder about
is “fibrosity”. What causes the long needle-like fibres (in various
mineral crytals as a matter of fact)? What bonds them into elongated
crystals? Are both jadeite jade and nephrite jade fibrous?

Further to my earlier post, I am going to make a small refractory
furnace which will take me up to 3200 F if I can get the material.
Could that make jade? Given that nephrite jade is hydrous, maybe it
comes from not-so-hot hydrothermal events. A furnace might break the
OH bonds and prevent jade formation.

Apparently GE has synthesized jadeite but I have not read of any
synthetic nephrite.


#2

The Chinese first tried it with limited success a thousand years
ago. It was eventually called porcelain. I dont know if there is a
future in it as a commercial product though.

Seriously though, jadeite is a sodium aluminium silicate in its
purest form with a solid solution series to enstatite and
wollastonite. These are relatively easy to synthesise but not as a
gemstone. You can synthesise olivine from iron ore (fayalite is a
constituent of slag) but that does not grow you a peridot. Sometimes
you need a bigger chemistry set-something about the size of the
himalayas will do. If you are having classes in ceramic sculpture
learn to do that and ENJOY it. When you understand the properties
and behaviour of pottery clays you may want to experiment with glazes
and different kiln conditions. That is more than a lifetime’s work
and study for most people without attempting the impossible as a
first step. I have done analysis of lustre glazes on early 20th
century ceramics from the Moorcroft factory and reproduced the glaze
but cannot tell you for definite the oxidation state of the copper in
the glaze as you can get exactly the same effects with copper present
as oxide and/or as metal. When you have your furnace and try a bit of
experimenting keep datailed notes of everything you do and the
results obtained. You are unlikely to make jade but you could just
turn out something that pleases you that you would want to make
again. Oxides are fun things to add to pot clay. Not got any
interesting ones? just heat carbonates up to 600 deg c and you will
have.

Best of luck,
Nick


#3

The Japanese tried and they made Victoria stone


#4
When you understand the properties and behaviour of pottery clays
you may want to experiment with glazes and different kiln
conditions. 

Yes, I think that will be my focus. “Field gemmology” has led me to
examine the glaze of rocks as well as micro-crystals (right down to
the powder after diamond-blade cutting and drilling) as well as the
matrix.

I have seen some amazing natural glazes on the rock faces when I
break into faulted rocks. I am not sure though if they are caused by
water or heat and maybe even pressure. I have seen some on greenstone
for example which kick the hardness up a notch on Mohs and bring out
amazing improvement in both saturation and brightness of colour. Some
even give a puzzling blue glaze though I cannot find blue in the
greenish stone beneath. Also there are glazed surfaces which look
"fibrous" and that adds an interesting patterning to the glaze which
I would like to try simulating. Any tips?

I started to research mineral fibrosity which I had previously
associated only with asbestos. Surprisingly there are a number of
minerals which form very long and fibrous crystals. Any ideas on how
they get interlocked during crystallization? This was not in the
reference works. If I can simulate fibrosity in glazing that will be
excellent. The pottery course is teaching about the aesthetics of
surface patterning. For example if you press starched crochet into
soft clay the effect is very aesthetic. Fibrous glazes would add
greatly to the surface aesthetics.

PS - Thanks also for the comment on Chinese trying to make jade and
ending up with porcelain. Before I start researching the history -
Was that a joke or serious?


#5

Both jadeite and nephrite form deep in the earth at high temperature
and pressure. If you want to synthesize either, the pressure is
harder to duplicate than the temperature. If you make a kiln that
will go to 3500 degrees Fahrenheit, you are a lot less than half way
to success.

Jadeite has been synthesized, but as far as I know, nephrite has
not. I doubt that nephrite is harder to synthesize. I expect that
the reason why only jadeite has been synthesized is because the
highest quality jadeite is worth a lot more than the highest quality
nephrite.

As for crystallization, nephrite is made of interlocking fibrous
crystals. Jadeite is made of blocky crystals. The key to
synthesization is to put the right ingredients in the right tempature
and pressure where crystal growth can happen.


#6

Thank you for your interest. I will refer to Leaming’s book “Jade
Fever” as some would say he is Canada’s leading jade geologist. Does
anyone have another text? I will also cc GE as they make jadeite and
I wonder if they could not make even stronger precious jade gems if
they used actinolite-tremolite in the magma instead of sodium
aluminum silicate. I have nephrite pieces here from a half doxen
jewelry/gift retailers and I am studying nephrite jade presently.
Unfortunately VCC offers short courses in jadeite gemology only.

GE may want to participate in this discussion as a PR exercise given
the impressive roster of 10,000 Orchidians online.


#7
Does anyone know why the resulting nephrite stone does not have
its water bond vaporized off? I can burn off the water in my oven. 

High pressure. Put your water in a pressure cooker in your oven and
it will stay liquid. Of course, both jades form at a far higher
pressure than you can maintain in a common pressure cooker.