Gems, Minerals and Fossils


(This 888th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on March 30, 2008.)


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Activity at the 2007 Gem Mineral Fossil Show

photo credit: Joseph A. Butch


The Buffalo Geological Society's 40th Annual Gem Mineral Fossil Show will take place this coming Saturday, April 5th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 6th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Erie County Fairgrounds in the Market and Grange Buildings. (Enter from South Park Avenue.) Admission is $5.00 with children 12 and under free.


Buffalo Geological Society members include rock collectors, lapidary hobbyists, and persons with other interests in the geological sciences. Their meetings include an activity or speaker on the first Friday evening September to May, field trips, classes, an annual picnic and banquet, and best of all, this annual show. For more information about the society visit their website.


The Gem Mineral Fossil Show is an outstanding local event that each year draws a very large audience. I have attended several times and enjoyed every minute of my visits. There are private and commercial exhibits of a wide range of interesting and often beautiful minerals, beads, jewelry and fossils. You can watch gem cutters and jewelry polishers at work. And the society has done well by kids: there are excellent opportunities for youngsters to begin or enhance their own collections.


A  Jade Gemstone


The focus of this year's show is "Jade: Stones of Heaven".


Until I began work on this column I knew nothing whatsoever about jade so I have tried to educate myself in order to introduce you to this special show feature. Until now, in fact, the only definition of a jade I knew was "a disreputable or intemperate woman." Clearly, that was not the idea I was after so I began my search.


I first went to the wonderful website where I found this Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia definition: "jade: common name for either of two minerals used as gems. The rarer variety is jadeite, a sodium aluminum silicate, usually white or green in color; the green variety is the more valuable. The commoner and less costly variety is nephrite, a calcium magnesium iron silicate of varying composition, white to dark green in color."


The entry continues: "Jade has been prized by the Chinese and Japanese, as well as by pre-Colombian Mesoamerican peoples, as the most precious of all gems. The Chinese in particular are known for the objets d'art they carve from it, and they traditionally associated it with the five cardinal virtues: charity, modesty, courage, justice, and wisdom; they also attributed healing powers to it."


There is much information packed into that extended definition, but it left me with a question. Why the added phrase in that title, "Stones of Heaven"?


Further research led me to this statement on the Fast Feng Sui website: "In Chinese culture, jade is believed to be a link between the physical and spiritual worlds, and is thought to be the material form that most completely embodies both the yin and yang qualities of Heaven and Earth. Thus it is called, 'the stone of Heaven.' The Mandarin character for jade is similar to a capital 'I' with a line across the middle. The top of the character represents Heaven and the bottom represents earth, with the line in the middle symbolizing mankind."


Some other information I found about jade:


·      Archeologists have discovered jade objects in China dating from 7000 years ago. Although much prized there today, more even than gold and ivory, it was used over time for purposes other than decorative. For example, nephrite is a cognate of nephritis which means inflammation of the kidney. Thus powdered nephrite once served as a cure for kidney ailments. It was used to treat other illnesses and even for weapons.


·      The closest source of nephrite is Easton, Pennsylvania. The nearest jadeite sources are Bakersville, North Carolina and Shabogamo, Quebec.


·      Today a pale-green resin is often used as a less expensive jade substitute.


·      Jade is a non-conductor, so it feels cool to the touch. This coolness is just one of the tests to distinguish jade from such substitutes.


·      Liu Sheng, ruler of the Chinese Zhongshan State (113 BC), believed that jade could prevent decay: he was buried in a suit of 2,498 pieces of jade sewn together with several pounds of gold thread. It didn't work.


You're now over-prepared. Don't miss this show.-- Gerry Rising