DOI: 10.3390/cryst13121677 ISSN: 2073-4352

A New Type of White Nephrite from Limestone Replacement along the Kunlun–Altyn Tagh Mountains: A Case from the Mida Deposit, Qiemo County, Xinjiang, China

Tianlong Jiang, Guanghai Shi, Danning Ye, Xiaochong Zhang, Linjing Zhang, Hongwei Han
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • General Chemical Engineering

The recently discovered Mida nephrite deposit, located in the East Kunlun Mountains, Qiemo County, Xinjiang, Northwest China, contains new types of white and greenish white nephrite formed by limestone replacement, which shows microstructures, macroscopic features and country rocks typologies that are quite different from those of the other deposits along the Kunlun–Altyn Tagh Mountains. The gemological and mineralogical characteristics of Mida nephrite are presented here. These nephrites show an ivory white color and a porcelain-like appearance, with semitranslucent-to-opaque transparency and a porcelain-to-greasy luster. Petrographic study, electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) data and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images have indicated that the nephrite is composed of tremolite, accompanied by minor quartz, calcite and diopside. Tremolite aggregates have shown different textures, like flaky, granular, fibrous–felted, bundle, radial and metasomatic relict textures. Quartz has appeared in granular or disseminated form, dispersed in the tremolite matrix. Calcite has shown a metasomatic relict texture in the white nephrite samples. Diopside has shown euhedral grains, with some distributed with a certain geometric appearance. Based on our observations, it is suggested that the quartz in the nephrite originated from Si-rich hydrothermal fluids. We propose that the substantial size difference of mineral grains, together with uncompacted grains with inter-particle pores, are the main reasons for the internal reflection and refraction under transmitted light, which allow less transmitted light to pass through the nephrite body and generate the appearance of a semitranslucent-to-opaque transparency, ivory white color and porcelain luster. Our study has unveiled that the Mida nephrite is not typical of the two known types (D-type: dolomite-related; S-type: serpentinite-related) and is overlapped by quartz grains dispersed throughout the less compact tremolite matrix. These observations would help set it apart from the majority of nephrite jades found in the Kunlun Mountains region and provide valuable insights for enhancing comprehension of the diversity of the nephrite deposits.

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