China, is still the largest nephrite market through its lengthy history and significance in Chinese culture. As early as the Neolithic times (4000 BC), nephrite in China was known for utilitarian and ceremonial jade items from the now-depleted deposits in the Yangtze River Delta area (3400–2250 BC) and in an area of the Liaoning province in Inner Mongolia (4700–2200 BC). Jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, ranging from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits. Jade was also considered the “imperial gem” of many emperors. From the earliest Chinese Dynasties until now, the most significant jade deposits were from the region of Khotan (Hotan) in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Despite Hotan jade’s dominance, jade deposits from other areas of China, such as Lantian and Dushan, were also in great demand. As an old Chinese saying goes, “jade is more valuable than gold or silver.”
Neolithic and Chalcolithic Europe
From the Early Neolithic (7000 BC) to the Late Chalcolithic Period (5000 BC), nephrite used for tools and amulets were found in the Balkans (mainly Bulgaria area). Such tools were also found in the Later Neolithic of Poland, Sardinia (Italy) and Switzerland. New Zealand—Māori Culture Nephrite jade in New Zealand is known as pounamu in the Māori language (also called “greenstone” in New Zealand English). It is considered as taonga or treasure and plays an important role in Māori culture. Nephrite jewelry of Māori design is widely popular around the world, although some of the jade used for these purposes is now imported from British Columbia due to New Zealand’s strict regulations for nephrite use.