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The incredible hidden history of the world's rarest and most valuable gem stone. The Stone of Heaven: the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade is one of those remarkable travel-cum-history books that manages to combine both glamour and mystery with the exposure of moral squalor and appalling political corruption. These are the things that gold, silver, diamonds have generated throughout history--and so too, it seems, has imperial green jade. The facts about the "stone of heaven" sound more like the wildest fictions of swashbuckling storytellers like Rider Haggard, or perhaps even Wilbur Smith. It is by far the most valuable stone in the world (diamonds are positively cheap compared to this stuff), and in its purest form, it derives from only one source: a remote mine in a valley in the very shadow of the Himalayas. The authors take us competently through the history of green jade, brought to life most entertainingly of all in the 18th-century skirmishes between the British and the Chinese--in terms of wiliness and cunning, a fine match for each other. They give us some great "well, would you believe it?" facts (one Chinese Emperor wrote more than 800 poems to his beloved jade collection). The mines are worked by around one million men, women and children. They are paid in government-supplied heroin. The mine is declared an international disaster zone by the United Nations. Imported from Britain.
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