There are 2 types of commercial jade. Nephrite is the more common and is found today in Canada and New Zealand. Gem quality jade is Jadeite. It is far rarer and comes in many colors when found. Current sources of Jadeite include Russia and Guatemala. Ruth and I went to a jade factory, museum, and retail establishment in Antigua, Guatemala. Most of the other attractions in this colonial city devastated by earthquakes were elaborate churches. Commerce and religion seem to be the 2 main reasons to go there.
Humans have been mining jade in Guatemala since 1,500 BC. Olmec natives collected and traded Jadeite mostly with neighboring Mexican cultures. Most Nephrite ends up as carved figures. Jadeite ends up in jewelry like this pair of Chinese earrings that sold for more than 1½ million dollars 21 years ago. The green is jade and the other gems are diamonds.
A woman named Mary Lou Johnson rediscovered gem-quality jade in Guatemala in the 20th century. She also found Mayan jade-working tools and carvings. The carving from Aztec culture above is the goddess Tlazolteotl in the process of giving birth. In Jade Maya’s museum, she spends her time eating the sins of the world. This is her job according to the Aztecs. The richest tomb ever found in the Mayan world contained a man’s body adorned with 26 pounds of jade. It was discovered by a Mexican archaeologist in 1952, and the man found in the tomb was once known as Pakal the Great.
Archaeologist Mazy Lou Ridinger founded this jade factory and retail operation in Antigua. Called Jade Maya, there are now several shops with this name but this one claims to be the first and largest jade factory in Central America. Ridinger and it have been featured in many magazines over the years including National Geographic. You don’t have to go to Antigua to see the jade items it produces. Just google Jade Maya to see many items available from this Guatemalan company. They will authenticate what you purchase. Ruth liked the retail part of Jade Maya while I preferred the museum.