This stone is really well-known, it was very popular in ancient time, especially in Egypt and China. Many centuries ago people carved amulets from nephrite, they even made nephrite coins. Nephrite is in fact a fine-grained, calcium-rich, magnesium, iron, aluminous amphibole. It is composed of highly intergrown, interlocking (matted or felted texture, like asbestos or felt) crystals.
Though this stone is not very hard (its hardness is from 5 to 6,5 Moh's Scale depending on the deposit), nephrite is one of the toughest gem minerals known because of the intergrown nature of the individual crystals. There is a story that a big boulder of Siberian nephrite was put once on the anvil and hit by the heavy steam hammer. The boulder did not get a scratch, though the anvil was broken in pieces.
Nephrite gets its name from Greek "nephros" which means "kidney", ancient people believed nephrite to treat kidney diseases. Numerous deposits of this material are spread around the world, there are mines in British Columbia (Canada), in China, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Alaska. Nephrite can have all shades of green color - apple-green, grass-green, olive, sometimes bluish or yellowish. There is also white nephrite, but pure white color is very rare.
The history of nephrite in Russia begins in 15th century, when it was brought from Central Asia by merchants. First nephrite mine in Russia, in Sayany mountains near the Baikal lake, was found only in 18th century. Several varieties of Russian nephrite are really unique - for example, there is so-called Ulan-hodinskiy nephrite, which has a color much similar to chrysophrase. Sometimes Russian nephrite has a cat's eye effect, and this in combination with beautiful green color makes it even more attractive. However, really good cat's eye nephrite is very rare, and it is much more expensive then regular one.
The astrologers say that nephrite is connected with religion and rebuilding of the whole life. Nephrite talismans protect life, save from poisoning, give cheerfulness, cure physical diseases. Nephrite saves from earthquakes and lightning, reflects the evil eye and misfortunes, helps in family life and labors. A carved nephrite as a present is a sign of special love and friendship, eternal gratitude and favor.