Jade - The Alaskan State Gem
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Plans for touring Alaska conjure images of that ancient glimmering substance found in rocks and rivers, that bright sparkly rock for which Alaska is famous. No, it's not gold. It's the Alaskan state gem, jade.
The Alaska Legislature chose jade as the state gem in 1968. No tourist in Alaska can travel through Alaska without at least glimpsing this precious gem, glimmering out of gift shops, adorning natives and-for some lucky visitor to Alaska-glistening out of river beds. As a visitor, if you are looking for the perfect Alaskan souvenir, a jade keepsake is definitely your answer.
Alaska Jade is a stone valued by Alaskans for its luminescent colors and smooth surfaces. Colors range from hues of green, to yellow, to red, black, and white. Lavender Jade is the most highly valued because it is the most rare.
One might assume that jade is easily found at Alaska's majestic Jade Mountain, a real mountain made completely of dark green jade. However this Alaskan wonder is inaccessible to visitor, as it is situated on the Seward Peninsula, a remote region unreachable by highway.
Alaskan Jade is generally found in the Dall, Shungnak and Kobuk rivers.
The Kobuk River, a 200-mile stream spanning Brooks Range to Kotzuebue Sound to the Chukchi Sea, has been a historically valuable source of jade. Visitors to Alaska can spend an enjoyable day at the Kobuk Valley National Park, home of the Kobuk River as well as the Kobuk Valley Jade, a unique store where you can actually see jade boulders being sawed and shined, and where many Alaskan handcrafted products, from jade jewelry to Eskimo-carved walrus ivory, are made.
When visitors explore this area, they will know they are following in the footsteps of the ancients. When the original Alaskans found the nuggets of jade that tumbled downstream in the Kobuk River, they used the gem to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Later anthropologists in the 1940's and the 1960's journeyed across the Kobuk tundra, traveling the Kobuk River by canoe, stopping along the way to dig for jade at the base of the resplendent Jade Mountain.
The Kobuk River today spawns jade artifacts that are a hundred years old and have been found at archeological sites along the Bering and Pacific coasts of Alaska and British Columbia. By purchasing a jade souvenir for friends and family, you aren't just buying a gift. You are buying an important emblem of Alaskan history, a symbol of Alaska's vast natural resources and the exquisite craftsmanship abilities of the native people.
The U.S. Navy lieutenant George M. Stoney was the first non-native to discover Alaska jade in the Kobuk River in 1886. From 1943 to 1945, the Alaska Territorial Department of Mines investigated the area. By 1945, eleven tons of jade were found. Government geologists determined jade could be found in the forty-mile stretch parallel to the Kobuk River.
When touring Alaska, don't forget to stop by Kobuk Valley National Park, or any local gift shop, for a jade souvenir to bring home. The versatility of the gem, along with the natural resourcefulness of the Alaskan people combine to create an impressive variety of jade gifts and souvenirs. You'll be able to choose from a wide variety of jade dolls, figurines, jewelry, knives, and more. Conclude your Alaskan tour with the perfect souvenir, a glimmering piece of Alaskan history to remind you of your travels.
Information about jade history taken from Sitnews - June Allen