The commercial part of the lapidary business favors new mine finds and exotic or rare materials. As gem carvers, these reasons draw us to these materials, too. We carve our pieces, anticipating the market will enjoy and appreciate the wisdom of our new and unusual selections.
However, every now and then, an old stock material resurfaces and catches the public’s eye. As a result, customers demand we produce more jewelry using previously obscure materials. For me and my customers, this has been the case with Turkish purple jade.
Over the past two years, I’ve carved, gifted, and sold more Turkish purple jade than any other stone in my studio. I’ve enjoyed learning about the gemstone’s folklore as well as carving it. When my customers delight in holding their purchases in their hands for the first time, I also take great pride.
My miners, my customers, and I all share this obsession with Turkish purple jade. This has inspired me to write this article and share its beauty.
What is Turkish Purple Jade?
Turkish purple jade, also known as turkiyenite, has been used as a modern gemstone since the 1980s. During that time, tons of the material were exported to commercial markets. Only one place in the world produces it: the Bursa region of Turkey. Bursa is also known as a source of quartz, diaspore, epidote, orthoclase, and other rocks and minerals.
Is Turkish Purple Jade Really Jade?
Given that lavender/purple jadeite is among the rarest in the world, and Turkish purple jade doesn’t have the same luminescence or jadeite concentration of these jades, I make sure to inform my customers of the differences between these two very different gemstones.
Murat Hatipoğlu, Yasemin Başevirgen, and Steven C. Chamberlain have written an informative article, “Gem-Quality Turkish Purple Jade: Geological and Mineralogical Characteristics,” in the Journal of African Earth Sciences. Part of the 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 [Cenozoic] 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 (and price) as lavender/purple jadeite, as lapidary artists and gemstone dealers, we have a responsibility to ensure our wares have proper identifications. We should make clear the differences between these two gemstones.
Rumors About Turkish Purple Jade
Over the years, I’ve heard several rumors about this gem material.
Has it Been Mined Out?
Turkish purple jade’s increasing scarcity and price give credence to the rumor that it’s been mined out for some time. The source was said to be a small, surface material deposit, with no stones ever found under several feet. Although additional money was spent to find more, less and less was found until none could be found at all. The location also contains marble and precious metal mines. This well-explored area has yielded no additional Turkish purple jade.
Does it Appear in Historical Artifacts?
Another rumor holds that artisans used this material for the ornamentation of the first palace of the Ottoman Empire. In the section, “The Early Phase in Ottoman History” in Jade, Roger Keverne shows vessels described as green and white jade (Figures 12 and 13, page 280). To my eye, however, they look very similar to the Turkish purple jade I carve today. I think people mined and used this material much earlier than commonly believed. Perhaps historians and archeologists should consider this when examining Turkish artifacts.
I’ve also heard that the Turkish government is considering designating Turkish purple jade a “National Heritage Stone.”
What Kind of Jewelry Can be Made from Turkish Purple Jade?
A rough seller (as well as a miner and importer of fabulous Turkish gems) introduced me to Turkish purple jade. He suggested that I try working with the material. Along with my usual order of royal blue chalcedony and opalized wood, he sold me a piece.
I found it interesting and attractive. My customers, however, found it absolutely desirable! My cabochon buyers were more than ready to pay extra for this beautiful and mysterious material. I had a hard time keeping finished stones in stock. Even as I write this, I need to slab and cab more Turkish purple jade for my cabochon inventory.
Whether rough or finished, Turkish purple jade looks and feels so alluring. This wonderful gemstone can be used for a variety of lapidary projects. I’ve seen bowls, vases, figurines, intarsia, reliefs, cabochons, bracelets, beads, and faceted pieces, all done with this beautiful material. Other than its opaqueness, it seems to have no limits.
Quality Factors and Gem Properties of Turkish Purple Jade
Turkish purple jade is hard to locate. Prices vary, depending on the seller’s knowledge. For gem cutters, seeking it out for carving projects will be well worth the time and money. I have found it on eBay and Etsy as well as other online sources. The quality varies in color and inclusions.
I find Turkish purple jade a wonderful choice for cutting both simple cabs and more intricate jewelry designs. With a hardness between 6 and 7, it responds well to diamond tools and plenty of water. Its structure allows for easy three-dimensional carving without fear of cracking or crumbling.
The base colors run from gray-purple to rich deep purple and mottled variations in between. These color variations, along with deep green dots and red streaks, provide an interesting canvas for exposing the material’s patterns. (My customers prefer middle to dark purple colors with mottled surfaces. Occasionally, you can find bold specks of green and orange along with other delightful variations).
However, by far, my favorite quality of Turkish purple jade is how it feels in your hand during carving. You’ll see the excitement in your customers’ eyes when they hold the gem for the first time. If you price the piece fairly, they may never hand it back to you!
Cutting Turkish Purple Jade
For this article’s lapidary project, I selected one of my darker nodules of Turkish purple jade. I then slabbed, cabbed, and carved five pieces for separate jewelry designs.
The following series of photos will take you through the different stages of the process, from solid rock to finished jewelry.
Tools and Equipment
I did the slabbing with a 16” Covington saw, using mineral oil as a coolant, and a Barranca diamond 301 saw blade. For trim sawing, I used a 6” Diamond Pacific “Wizard” saw and a Barranca Diamond 301 saw blade. I carved with a Diamond Pacific Genie, using Galaxy and Nova wheels, and a Nakanishi Espert 500 using Varenkor sintered diamond burrs, along with silicon carbide blocks. I polished with cerium oxide using pads, then hand rubbed with 3M diamond papers. For faceting, I used the Ultra Tec V5.
Carving and Faceting
Creating Unique Turkish Purple Jade Jewelry Pieces
I selected the jewelry designs for this project to showcase the diverse options Turkish purple jade offers. With a combination of cabbing, carving, and faceting, I wanted to bring out this material’s beauty. By adding opal and quartz to the designs, I hoped to show how well Turkish purple jade plays with other gemstones.
Knowing whether the stone is a jade or rock will definitely matter to the collector of fine minerals and gemstones. However, I don’t consider it an issue when carving and selling Turkish purple jade for its unique color and performance. In fact, I think explaining its story and composition will help this beautiful gemstone become a favorite of carvers and customers alike.
About the Author
Mark Oros is the owner of Hashnu Stones & Gems, where he sells rough and facets, carves, and designs fine gemstone jewelry with his friends Michael Rizzo and Ruth Rosenfeld. He has his APC from GIA and is a member of the United States Faceters Guild, the AGTA, and IGS. Mark can be reached via his website or Facebook page.
- Hatipoğlu, Murat, Yasemin Başevirgen, and Steven C. Chamberlain.“Gem-Quality Turkish Purple Jade: Geological and Mineralogical Characteristics.” Journal of African Earth Sciences, Volume 63 (February 2012), 48-61.
- Hatipoğlu, Murat and Yasemin Yardımcı. “Photoluminescence of Turkish Purple Jade (Turkiyenite).” Journal of Luminescence, 132 (2012), 2897–2907.
- Jade. Roger Keverne, Consultant Editor. Amness Publishing LTD, 1991. (Updated 2010).