Alps Jade (green omphacite jade)

Alps Jade in 19th Century Decorative Arts: Elegance in Green

In the 19th century, Alps Jade, also known as green omphacite jade, was a valued material in the decorative arts, used in the creation of vases, sculptures, and various objects. Originating primarily from the Alpine regions, this unique type of jade has a distinctive green colour, ranging from pale to dark shades, and sometimes described as “inky black jade.” Its composition, a pyroxene silicate of calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, and aluminium, distinguishes it from other types of jade like jadeite or nephrite.

Alps Jade is characterised by its translucent to opaque clarity and a lustre that can range from vitreous to silky, and sometimes even resinous to greasy. This mineral typically exhibits a brittle tenacity and cleavage at near right angles, similar to other pyroxene minerals. It was often cut en cabochon or carved into ornamental shapes, showcasing its natural beauty and colour. Oval-shaped cabochons were common as they tended to preserve the most rough weight. Fancy shapes in this material were rare but not unheard of.

In terms of gemological properties, Alps Jade has a hardness of 5.5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, making it suitable for carving and shaping into various decorative items. Its refractive index ranges from 1.662 to 1.723, and it has a density of 3.29 to 3.39. This jade is typically not treated or enhanced in any way, maintaining its natural allure.

The use of Alps Jade in the 19th century decorative arts reflects the period’s fascination with exotic and unique materials, lending a distinct character to the era’s artistic creations. Its incorporation into vases, sculptures, and other objects highlights the versatility and aesthetic appeal of this material.

This information is based on the mineralogical characteristics and historical context of Alps Jade provided by sources such as GemSelect and The Rock Gallery.


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