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Jade and its variants are very hard and durable stones. Jade, which lands near a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, is nearly as hard as steel. Mesoamerican artists working with the material had to be patient and extremely skilled. Utilizing other hard rocks, artists hit the jade they were working on to shape it. Cuts, incised decorations, and holes were made with reeds and flint blades.

Due to the stone's composition and the laborious process of shaping it, carvings were often done in low relief. The figure on this pendant is flattened yet their ear gauges and headdress, both signs of nobility, are rendered with detail.

Walters Art Museum Object Description

Jadeite is a dense alumina silicate of the pyroxene mineral family. The preferred stone for denoting status and sacredness throughout Mesoamerica, its value was based on its relative scarcity, the polished stone's bright, shiny surface , its translucent colors (ranging from light green to a rich blue-green), and the challenge of carving the stone due to the stone's hardness. In addition to the impressive visual qualities and scarcity, jadeite was symbolically linked to the miracle of the earth's fecundity, the maize god, and the life-giving promise of green plants and blue-green water. Together, these attributes made jadeite the most valuable of all materials to adorn the nobility and the gods. The Maya also fashioned adornments from similar green-colored stones whose ...

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