LEAMING, Stan




British Columbia is the world leader in jade production, and Stanley Fraser Leaming is the primary authority on the subject. Born in Minnedosa, Manitoba in 1917, Leaming moved to Brandon, Manitoba at a young age and later attended prospecting school there in 1939. At 23 he entered the RCAF and was discharged from World War II duties in 1945. He received his M.A. in geology from University of Toronto in 1948. Leaming has traveled extensively in the world to collect and study jade, first working as a field geologist for 12 years, from Labrador to the Yukon, prior to joining the Geological Survey of Canada in Vancouver in 1960 and remaining with the GSC until 1981, when he retired to Summerland. His scientific work Jade in Canada (1978) laid the groundwork for the jade industry of B.C. His other books include Rock and Mineral Collecting in British Columbia (1971), Guide to Rocks & Minerals of the Northwest (1982), which he co-wrote with his son Chris, and his newly-released Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven (Heritage House, 2005), co-written with Rick Hudson.

Offering a less-technical and more personal account of jade than his other works, Jade Fever touches on all aspects of the so-called ‘green-gold’, from the history of jade in North America and Europe to Leaming’s own personal journey around the world in order to find and study the mineral. His many destinations include Labrador, Siberia and the People’s Republic of China, where the use of jade dates back more than 6,000 years. “It was no simple matter to get permission from the authorities to visit the western reaches of China, as the province of Xinjiang had long been closed to foreign travel, writes Leaming. “We were prepared to offer lectures on jade by ‘the experts from Canada and New Zealand.’ I have no idea how much weight this carried, but we finally did receive our permits, at a time when Xinjiang was just opening to outsiders.”

Jade Fever also includes a detailed account of jade in B.C., one of the most plentiful jade resources not only in Canada, but in the world. From 1995 to 2000, the world's leading producers of jade, in annual tonnage, were British Columbia (200), Siberia (200), Australia (25), Yukon (20) and USA (5). "B.C. is the jade province par excellence," writes Leaming. "In fact, if you talk about Canadian jade you could almost be talking about B.C. jade." This high concentration of the substance in B.C. has resulted in a rich local history. Jade was present in both First Nations and Inuit culture, a fact noted by many early European explorers, but began to disappear following the introduction of iron tools. Jade remained largely forgotten until the mineral was identified by Chinese labourers as the ‘stone of heaven’ during the Fraser River gold rush, spurring many small-time prospectors to mine the material.

After the Second World War, a vibrant “rockhound” culture emerged, consisting of hobbyists dedicated to collecting, cutting and polishing rocks – pre-eminently jade – for jewellery. A rock enthusiast magazine, The Canadian Rockhound, was founded in 1957 and ran for almost a quarter of a century. “The principal contributors were mostly from British Columbia—to such an extent that it might well have been called the B.C. Rockhound,” writes Leaming. In 1998, Ms. Win Robertson started the B.C. Rockhounder, which is still currently in print.

In 1968, Premier W.A.C. Bennett declared jade the official provincial stone, and allowed anyone to collect it along the Fraser River, as long as it was not done for profit. Jade has also been the centre of numerous legal and criminal battles. “Over the years there have been a few cases of the Queen versus John Doe (and sometimes the reverse), involving jade in British Columbia,” writes Leaming. I was involved in one case, but, I hasten to add, as an expert witness, not as the accused.”

BOOKS:

Rock and Mineral Collecting in British Columbia (Geological Survey of Canada, 1971)

Jade in Canada (Ottawa: Dept. Of Energy, Mines and Resources, 1978).

Western Rocks and Minerals (Hancock House, 1980). With Chris Leaming.

Guide to Rocks and Minerals of the Northwest (Hancock House, 1982). With Chris Leaming.

Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven (Heritage House, 2005).

[BCBW 2005] "Geology"