Thursday, 4 December 2014


Unlike most methods of carving stones, Jade being approximately hardness 6.5-7 on MOHS scale is worked differently.

If you thought chisels and hammers, then you would be very wrong. Even the hardest chisels from the toughest flints, just broke.

I bet you haven't really considered how the ancient chinese mastered the art of Jade carving to the point where the inanimate objects became highly elaborate works of art?

Jade carving was done with sand and water and string.  Jade carving had to be worked by sawing, drilling or grinding down using abrasive materials and bamboo to drill.

Nowadays of course Jade carving is done very differently with Diamond drills.

John Wenti Chang explains the folklore of the Celestial Kingdom :

A workman who found this strange new stone, hard, heavy and closely grained.  It appeared as if it would be fit to work, however after days of diligence he failed to dislodge the smallest flake, only succeeding in breaking his chisels.

The distressed workman consulted the Chieftain, who was well known for his wisdom and intelligence. 

The Chieftain considered the broken tools and the new stone and said “It is evident this material is harder than any other that God of Earth has given us and we have nothing hard enough to chip it.

However, we can see how the God of the River has worked it for his use.  With water and sand he has worn it round.  Do then take water and sand and work it the same.”

Water, Sand and a Piece of String

Although, we don’t know exactly how jade was initially cut, we hazard a good guess.  Ironically, jade, the world’s toughest stone, can be cut with water, sand, and a piece of string.  The sand and water cover the stone as abrasives, then the  string is used like a saw back and forth across the top.  In exactly the same method, holes are drilled using bamboo.

Jade Carving was by no means a quick cutting method, wire and abrasives used from around 500BC weren’t either, which is still used to the present day.

It is no wonder it required exceptional patience Jade carving as the craftsman could spend years on just one carving.  Maybe the Jade carver craftsman’s addiction to optimism was which gave birth to the  most persistent of the carving myths – the Chinese Excalibur.

Pictured here is Jade Carving being done with the use of diamond drills and water to carve the Jade Happiness Ball.

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