The Cowell Jade Province
The following piece is by Jeff Olliver of Olliver Geological Services Pty Ltd. He lives in South Australia (SA) and has a wealth of information and experience on the mineral resources of the state. I met him when I was in SA recently, and he kindly agreed to share some of his experience with us. His article follows. I'll post a few of my pictures of Cowell jade at the bottom of this month's blog.
Jeff writes: despite the use and knowledge of jade more than several thousand years ago by other civilizations, there is no record of Australian Aboriginals using it. They used other stones like agate, quartzite and sandstone.
Nephrite was discovered by Harry Schiller on his farm 20km north of Cowell South Australia. Harry was a mineral collector, prospector and an activist in local politics and government. He was intrigued by heavy green stones that he used to hold down fences that had been damaged by kangaroos. The specific gravity (SG) of these stones was 3.0 compared to normal rock at 2.5.
In late 1965, on Harry's annual trip to Adelaide, he took several samples and showed them to the Adelaide Museum, which recommended that he go to the University of Adelaide. It was morning tea and Professors and staff were in the basement tearoom of the Mawson Laboratories, named after Sir Douglas Mawson, the famous Antarctic explorer. I studied for five years to be awarded a B.Sc, followed by B.Sc(Hons). The Schiller samples were handed around. Only one unidentified lecturer said "this is going to make you a lot of money, I think it's jade"! This was greeted by laughter because there was no known jade in Australia.
Harry was advised to take the samples to the Department of Mines who forwarded them to Australian Mineral Development Laboratories (AMDEL). The subsequent petrological report confirmed the first record of nephrite in Australia.
When Don Dunstan was Premier of South Australia in early 1974, he asked the Department to investigate and determine the quantity and quality of jade at Cowell. As Senior Geologist, Mineral Resources, I supervised the field work. Detailed mapping, sampling and drilling located 120 separate outcrops, the largest was 65m by 3m and the smallest 0.2m by 0.02m scattered over an area of 5km by 2km. This was designated the Cowell Jade Province.
Lillian Jackson was the first lapidarist at the Kingston College of TAFE at O'Halloran Hill. She ran the jade jewellery and carving course for many years.
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On this page I intend to add monthly updates on aspects of jade carving. I also plan to invite more experienced carvers to offer a "master-class" on a particular subject of their choice. With this I hope to enthuse both the novice and the expert in this ancient and beautiful art-form/craft. And comments are welcome!