The commercial part of the lapidary business favors new mine finds and exotic or rare materials. As carvers, we are drawn to these materials for the above reasons and we carve our pieces with the anticipation that the market will also enjoy and appreciate the wisdom of our selections. However, every now and then, there is a resurgence of an old stock material that catches the public’s eye and customers demand that you increase your production of works using materials that have been hidden and obscured by the current trends. This has been the case for my customers and Turkish purple jade.
Over the past two years, I have carved, gifted and sold more Turkish purple jade than any other stone in my studio. I have enjoyed the folklore, carving process and delight that my customers take in both holding and purchasing this stone. My miners’, my customers’ and my personal obsession with Turkish purple jade has inspired me to write this article and share its beauty.
Turkish purple jade, also known as “turkiyenite”, has been used as a modern gemstone since the 1980’s, when it was exported by tons to commercial markets. It is only found in one place in the world and that is the Bursa region of Turkey, a region known for quartz, diaspore, epidote, orthoclase and other rocks and minerals. There is some discussion on whether it is a jade or a rock given that the concentration of jadeite in Turkish purple jade is measured between 40% and 60%. Given that lavender/purple jade is among the rarest in the world, and Turkish purple jade does not have the luminesces or jadeite concentration of these jades, I make sure to inform my customers of the differences between these two very different gemstones.
Murat Hatipog ̆lu and Yasemin Bas-evirgen have written an informative article “Photoluminescence of Turkish purple jade” in the “Journal of Luminescence”. Part of this Abstract reads as follows:
“In the Harmancık–Bursa region of the western Anatolia (Turkey), an extensive contact metamorphic aureole at the border between the Late Mesozoic coherent metaclastic rocks of blueschist facies and the Early Senozoic intrusive granodiorite stock hosts an interesting and unique gem material with a mineral assemblage consisting mainly of jadeite, quartz, orthoclase, epidote, chloritoid, and phlogopite as identified by X-ray diffraction spectroscopy and polarized-light microscopy. In addition, chemical analyses performed with X-ray fluorescence and inductive-coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy show that the mass of the metamorphic aureole has a silica-rich, calc-alkaline chemical content. Therefore, some rock building elements (such as Al, Ca, Na, K, P, Sr, and B of which characterize an acidic–neutral rock formation) and trace elements (such as Fe, Cr, Mn, Be, Cu, Ga, La, Ni, Pb, and Zn) are remarkable high ratios.”
Although Turkish purple jade will eventually attain a similar scarcity as lavender jadeite and a commanding price, it is our responsibility as lapidary artists and gemstone dealers to make sure our wares are properly identified and distinguish the differences between these two gemstones
There are several rumors about Turkish purple jade that I have heard over the years. The increasing scarcity of Turkish purple jade and it’s rising prices give credence to the rumor that the material has been mined out for some time. It was said to be a small deposit and surface material with no stones ever found under several feet. Additional money was spent to find more, but less stones were found until none could be found at all. The location is also mined for marble and precious metals, so the area was well explored without any additional Turkish purple jade being found.
Another rumor is that it was used as a significant material to ornate parts of the first Ottoman Empire palace. In the book “Jade” by Consultant Author Roger Keverne, in the section on “The Early Phase in Ottoman History”, FIG 12 and FIG 13 (page 280) shows jade vessels that are described as green and white jade, but to my eye look very similar to the Turkish purple jade that I carve today. This makes me surmise that Turkish purple jade was mined and used much earlier than contemporary belief and this should be considered when looking at Turkish antiquities and artifacts.
I have also heard that Turkish purple jade has been considered by the government of Turkey to be classified as a “National Heritage Stone”.
I was first introduced to Turkish Purple Jade by a rough seller that also happened to be both a miner and importer of fabulous stones from Turkey. He suggested that I try working with the material and sold me a piece with my usual order of royal blue chalcedony and opalized wood. I found it interesting and attractive, but my customers found it compulsively desirable. My cabochon customers were more than ready to pay extra for this beautiful and mysterious material and it was hard to keep finished stones in stock. Even as I write this, I remind myself that I need to slab and cab some more Turkish purple jade for my cabochon inventory. The rough and finished gemstone is both alluring visually and seductive in the hand.
Turkish purple jade is a wonderful gemstone used for a variety of lapidary carving. I have seen bowls, vases, figurines, intarsia, relief, cabochons, bracelets, beads and faceting done with this beautiful material. It really seems to have no limit other than its opaqueness and lack of high jadeite luminescence.
Turkish Purple Jade is hard to locate and varies in price depending on the knowledge of the seller, but is well worth your time to seek it out and purchase some for your carving projects and profit. I have found it on eBay and Etsy and other online sources. The quality varies in color and inclusions. My customers like the middle to dark purple color with the mottled surface. Occasionally, you can find bold specks of green and orange along with other delightful variations.
I find Turkish Purple Jade a wonderful material to carve both simple cabochons and more intricate designs for jewelry. It is somewhere between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and responds well to diamond tools and plenty of water. Its structure allows for easy three-dimensional carvings without the fear of it cracking or crumbling. The base colors run from gray-purple to rich deep purple and mottled variations in between. This variation of color, along with dots of deep green and streaks of red, provide an interesting canvas on which to expose the color patterns of the material. However, my favorite aspect of Turkish Purple Jade is its responsiveness in your hand when carving it and the excitement a customer has the first time they see and hold it. If it is priced fairly, they will be hard pressed to hand it back to you.
For this article’s lapidary project, I selected one of my darker nodules of Turkish purple jade and slabbed, cabbed and carved five pieces for separate jewelry designs.
The slabbing was done with a 16” Covington saw using mineral oil as a coolant and a Barranca Diamond 301 saw blade. Trim sawing was done with a 6” Diamond Pacific “The Wizard” saw and a Barranca Diamond 301 saw blade. Carving was done with a Diamond Pacific Genie using Galaxy and Nova wheels and a Nakanishi Espert 500 using Varenkor sintered diamond burs along with silicon carbide blocks. Polishing was achieved with cerium oxide using pads, and hand-rubbed with 3M diamond papers. Faceting was done with the Ultra Tec V5.
The jewelry designs for the project were selected to show the diversity of options when using Turkish purple jade. I use a combination of cabbing, carving and faceting to bring out the beauty of the material. The addition of opal and quartz was used to show how well Turkish purple jade plays with other stones. I will use a series of pictures to show you the different stages of the process, from solid rock to finished jewelry.
Knowing whether the stone is a jade or rock will definitely matter to the collector of fine minerals and gemstones, however, I do not consider it an issue when carving and selling Turkish purple jade for its unique color and performance under the hand of the lapidary artist. Identifying and explaining it’s story, composition, and beauty allows this gemstone to become a favorite of both the carver and the customer.
About the Author
Mark Oros is the owner of Hashnu Stones & Gems where he sells rough, facets and carves and designs jewelry of fine gemstones with his friends Michael Rizzo and Ruth Rosenfeld. He is a member of the United States Faceting Guild, has his APC from GIA, is a member of AGTA and IGS. Mark can be reached via his web site of Facebook page.
- Jade, Consultant Editor Roger Keverne, Amness Publishing LTD 1991 Updated 2010
- Journal of Luminescence 132 (2012) 2897–2907, Photoluminescence of Turkish purple jade (turkiyenite), Murat Hatipog ̆lu a,b,n, Yasemin Bas-evirgen
- Gem-quality Turkish purple jade: Geological and mineralogical characteristics