Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Period: Western Zhou period (c. 1050 - 771 BC).
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Black.
Dimensions: Height: 17.5 cm; diameter 17 cm; width (including handles): 22 cm.

This beautiful vessel is striking in design.  The diamond-shaped mouth has a smooth lip and the body of the vessel fits comfortably in two hands with the thumbs held against the loop handles on either side, suggesting perhaps a ceremonial drinking vessel shared by more than one person.

The striking pattern suggests a tiger face, formed by shallow grooves of varying widths.  The globular vessel narrows to a base with a diameter of 6.5 cm, which is concave to a depth of approximately 5 mm.

The nephrite jade appears to be black in colour, but there is always a possibility that it was originally dark spinach green and has altered due to age and circumstance.  The finish is silky to the touch with every edge finished to perfection and softly rounded.  Raised crystalization is visible within the grooves, and on the surface of the concave section of the base.  A crack can be seen running diagonally across the top on one side of the vessel, with deep dissolution cavities within it, shown in the first and last close-up pictures in the second row. 

The quote below is taken from an article on the web, Old Chinese Jades: Real or Fake?, originally published in Unravel the Gavel, Vol. 16, No. 10, 18 Nov 2005.  by Eric J. Hoffman:
"There is, unfortunately, no scientific, objective way to date jade. There is nothing comparable to carbon-14 dating of organics or thermoluminescence testing for ceramics. So dating jade still relies mainly on art-historical methods and examination of tooling marks, both subjective. It’s this loophole that fake makers (and some dealer co-conspirators) exploit so readily."

The quote below is taken from the Introduction to this site and refers specifically to this vessel:
"Dr. Cook has published a paper on some of his studies – Cook, F.A., 2013, Raised relief on nephrite jade: Observations, explanations, implications, Journal of Archaeological Science, v. 40, 943-954. One interesting test published in this paper was on a nephrite jade vessel in our collection, which caught his attention because of some absorption visible on the inside of the vessel. He took scrapings in order to have a Carbon-14 test conducted, to see if a dating could be arrived at. As far as we know, this type of test has not been documented to have been carried out on archaic jade before this. The result showed that the vessel was produced at least 3010 years before the present date. The C-14 test is not generally used to date jade, as it requires sufficient organic material to test. However, the result is historic inasmuch as the dating of jade is generally made from making comparisons with documented pieces and a good knowledge of art history."

Below, the report of the conclusion arrived at by Beta Analytic Inc., Miami, Florida, USA:

Beta - 304354 3060 +/- 30 BP -28.3 o/oo 3010 +/- 30 BP SAMPLE : TT6 ANALYSIS : AMS-Standard delivery MATERIAL/PRETREATMENT : (organic material): acid washes 2 SIGMA CALIBRATION : Cal BC 1380 to 1330 (Cal BP 3330 to 3280)AND Cal BC 1330 to 1190 (Cal BP 3280 to 3140) Cal BC 1140 to 1140 (Cal BP 3090 to 3090).

Period: Late neolithic to Shang dynasty.
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Light green.
Dimensions: Height: 20 cm; diameter: 13 cm.

The vessel is well designed and delicately carved.  It is hollowed to just above the point at which the legs start.  The legs are solid and translucent at the tips, where light easily penetrates.  The body of the vessel is plain and each of the three legs is grooved to show inverted points.

The close-up pictures below show the ridges in the jade formed over a very long period of time after burial.

Brown patches are visible on three areas, two of them pictured below, are possibly inclusions in the jade.  Another opinion we can offer is that these are areas of repair made at the time of carving, which have changed colour with time.

Photographed through the mouth of the vessel, showing the banding of the jade.  This is a rare and extreme example of this type of jade.  There are a small number of archaic and antique jades in our collection displaying similar bands, but the bands in them are few.

To look at them, the narrow bands appear darker, however, when back-lit they are translucent and white.  They have not been scientifically tested, but we do believe that they are likely to be pure tremolite.  As such, we conclude that the hardness of the bands is greater than the other elements of the nephrite, causing them to stand proud, both inside and out, due to both alteration of the crystals as well as erosion.

Photographed side by side is the same area where a third brown patch is visible.  The picture that is back-lit shows the bands as clear when a light is shone through, corresponding with the ridges seen in the picture to the left.