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calendar of events



January 7
“Fossil Activity Afternoon”

Drop-in at the Museum and learn more about fossils with hands-on activities! See and touch real fossils, put together 3-D puzzles of dinosaur bones, and make your very own fossil imprint to take home!

Activities - Ages 5 to Adult
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – On-going activities
$5.00 per person, Museum Members Free
Drop-in - No Reservations Required

January 14
“Olympic Rocks”

Geared for middle and high school students competing in Science Olympiad tournaments, this class delves into the world of rocks and minerals. Hand samples will be available, covering most of the S.O. specimen list. Topics include quick ID tips, Bowen’s Reaction Series, and general rock information. Students are encouraged to sign-up as a team or as an individual. Please bring all your questions for this informal practice session!

Discussion/Activity - Ages 10 to 18 yrs.
10:30 a.m. - 75 minutes
$5.00 per person, Museum Members $3.00
Reservations Required: (630) 833-1616

January 14
“Introduction to Ancient Gems”

Archaeogemology combines the principles of gemology and the technology of mineralogical testing to interpret gems in the ancient world. Çigdem Lüle, Mineralogist, Gemologist and Research Educator at Gemworld International, Inc. presents an introduction to archaeogemology. See how gems were interpreted and traded by ancient civilizations and how researchers are understanding ancient societies through their use of gems.

Lecture – Youth to Adult
2:00 p.m. – 60 minutes
$5.00 per person, Museum Members Free
Reservations Recommended: (630) 833-1616

“Rock & Mineral Identification”

Geologist Sara Kurth presents an introduction to rocks and minerals. Learn to identify minerals through basic hands-on identification including observation skills and hardness tests. Great for rockhounds, Boy & Girl Scout merit badges and Teachers Professional Development credit. Email: Scout groups require adult supervision.

Classes: Jan. 21 at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 4 at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 25 at 10:30 a.m., March 11 at 10:30 a.m.
75 minutes – Ages 8 yrs. to Adult
Fee: $5.00 per person, Museum Members $3.00
Reservations Required (630) 833-1616

“Rockin’ Jewelry for Kids”

This beginner’s class allows children to make their own?gemstone jewelry to keep. Choose two different types of jewelry to make with stones from the Museum Shop and learn how to work with jeweler’s tools. Great for Girl Scout Jewelry Badge, parties of 10 or more are encouraged to schedule a private class. Email:

Classes: Feb. 4 at 1:30 p.m., March 11 at 1:30 p.m.
Activity - Ages 8 to 16 years
1:30 p.m. – 75 minutes
$10.00 per person
Reservations Required: (630) 833-1616

February 11
“Interpreting Chinese Jade Pendants”

Highly collectable Qing Dynasty nephrite jade pendants are among the most varied and historically unique type of Chinese art created from jade. Ying Zhang, University of Chicago Graduate Student and Museum Intern, presents a selection of nephrite jade pendants in the Lizzadro Collection. The lecture includes interpretation of symbolism and calligraphy on select pieces and the historical use and importance of pendants in Qing Dynasty China.

Adult Lecture – 2 p.m. – 60 minutes
$5.00 per person, Museum Members Free
Reservations Recommended

March 4
“Dinosaur Discoveries”

Children become dinosaur detectives with “Paleontologist Illinois Bones” to learn about the world of dinosaurs. Fossils and props are used to create an awareness of dinosaur characteristics. See live animals and how they are related to dinosaurs.

Interactive Lecture - Ages 4 yrs. to Adult
2 p.m. - 50 minutes
$5.00 per person, Museum Members Free
Reservations Recommended – (630) 833-1616

march 18
“Stars & Cat’s Eyes: Light Effects in Gems”

Stars! We look to the sky for stars! Did you know stars are also hidden in the earth, encased in gems? Come for a presentation and discussion presented by Sakina Bharani, Gemologist and Museum Docent, to learn more about the special gems that show stars and cat’s eyes. Learn why they form and where they are found. See some stars up close!

Youth to Adult Lecture – 2 p.m. – 60 minutes
Regular Museum Admission, Museum Members Free
Reservations Recommended – (630) 833-1616


March 25
“Mazon Creek Fossil Collecting Field Trip”


Join Jim Fairchild of the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois on a trip to Braidwood, Illinois to collect Mazon Creek fossils at the world famous site Pit 11 (conditions permitting). Learn what to look for when collecting these special fossils and how to open them. Travel by motor coach, bring a sack lunch and get ready to collect. Make reservations early, this field trip fills up fast!

Field Trip - 8 yrs. to Adult - 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
$30.00 per person, Museum Members $25.00
Reservations Required: (630) 833-1616


Jade Power
By Dorothy Asher

Astounded by the amount of carved jade on display, visitors to the Museum quickly learn the two terms used to label jade: Jadeite and Nephrite. They are often puzzled by these terms. It’s a lengthy and confusing historical tale to tell. Jade is a general term used to describe either jadeite or nephrite. The term jade is ambiguous and one might be skeptical of calling a stone just jade (that’s another article.) Based on historical references here are the origins of these terms.

In the early 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors in Central America brought back stones called piedra de ijada meaning “stone of the flank or side,” often translated as “stone of the loins.” The Spaniards observed the indigenous people wearing the stone around their waists or neck as an amulet against kidney pains. In Europe the idea grew in popularity especially among the aristocrats and social elite looking for new elixirs and aids for illness, much the same as we do today.

By 1570 the term Nephritis was being used to describe kidney disease, “nephros” Greek for kidney and “itis” inflammation. Writers referred to the stone as Lapis nephritictus meaning “stone of the kidney.” As supplies from Central America diminished, the Portuguese brought back similar looking stones and carvings from China. The Chinese had been carving nephrite jade for thousands of years and quickly realized the market for both beautiful and therapeutic stones that could be sold to the Europeans. Jade was called yu in China, but in Europe it had many names until the 19th century.


By the 17th century the wealthy Europeans had full faith in the stones medicinal powers to help alleviate kidney disease. The French translation for the Spanish ijada was l’ejade. A French printer apparently misspelled l’ejade and called it le jade. The English quickly picked up the term jade. By the 19th century scientists were calling the jade from China nephrite, but the people were calling it jade. In 1863, French chemist A. Damour noticed a new stone coming from China that was similar to nephrite but chemically different. He called it jadeite to avoid confusion with nephrite. It’s important to remember, Mineralogy as a science did not get its start until the mid-19th century. Prior to that, they did not know how to chemically distinguish stones and would name a stone based on its similarities to other stones. Finally in 1898, Dana’s Textbook of Mineralogy allowed the general term Jade to stand for two mineral species: Jadeite and Nephrite.

Ironically, the stones originally brought back from Central America, we now know were jadeite not nephrite. In fact, in the later part of the 20th century the original source of jadeite was found in Guatemala. Although the Chinese did ascribe many attributes to jade, they never linked jade to kidney ailments. The broad term jade is one of the few instances in the mineral world where two distinct minerals are accepted. So wear your cut and polished jade everyday for both it’s beauty and therapeutic properties. Now that’s jade power!

The Atheneum, The Etymology of Jade (The Mineral). No. 3808, p.513, Oct. 20, 1900.
Dana’s Textbook of Mineralogy, E.S. Dana, W.E. Ford, 4th Edition, 1948.
Gems & Gemology, Gemological Institute of America, Volume 14, 1972.
Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven, S. Leaming, R. Hudson, Heritage House Publishing, 2005.
Jade Lore, J.A. Goette, Ars Ceramica, Ltd., 1976.

Dorothy Asher is a Gemologist and Director of the Lizzadro Museum. For nearly 20 years she has curated and researched the Lizzadro Collection of jade.


Shou Nephrite Vase   壽字雙耳玉瓶
By Ying Zhang

The shape of the Shou vase on permanent display at the Lizzadro Museum is designed as a Ping-vessel or 瓶 (píng) in Chinese. In a more understandable way, the vase can be described as “the Double-eared Jade Vase with surface carving of the characters of Longevity (Shou),” or 寿字双耳玉瓶 (shòu zì shuāng ěr yù píng) in Chinese.

This Shou nephrite vase has two ring handles on the thin top register with two respective rings encircled through. One can easily experience the beauty of serenity and symmetry from simply appreciating its holistic shape, regardless of the designs carved on this almost translucent jade. With a closer look, the bottle body is engraved with multiple paralleled Chinese characters of Shou, meaning longevity in an ancient Chinese script style. In this Chinese calligraphic style, every character is totally different from one another, and each has been artistically altered in order to present stylistic variations of the character  Shou (寿 or 壽 shòu) and thus celebrate the longevity. The lower and upper low relief designs are cloud motifs, adding to the artistry of pure symmetry.

Examples of the same character Shou, longevity in different calligraphic styles.

One may ask, “why longevity is so important for Chinese people?” Well, it is not a question that we can set the tone very easily. But it is true that Chinese people hold appreciation for longevity from ancient times. We may find some clues in Chinese culture to answer the question. From a Confucian perspective, family bonds and filial piety are the most emphasized values, so the longer one lives, the more possible one will experience the joy of prosperous offspring while the person is still alive. From a Daoist perspective, the longer you live (and strive to even live forever), the higher chance you will become an immortal Daoist deity.  

People eat longevity-noodles on birthdays, and living long enough, itself, is an auspicious and happy event for the whole family. Generally speaking, one celebratory phrase to congratulate an elder person on their birthday is “福如东海,寿比南山,” meaning “wish you blessings as vast as the Eastern sea reigns, and wish you longevity as limitless as the Southern mountain remains.” In a nutshell, longevity is much appreciated and celebrated in Chinese culture.

Given this cultural background, one may still ask, “Why carve so many characters of longevity on the vase?” “What was the vase used for?” To answer this archaeological question about the original use of the piece, one possible speculation is that this vase was made as a birthday present to an elder person, a person the gift giver respects because of age, virtue, and nobility.

shou vase


Museum intern, Ying Zhang, is a graduate student of Religious Studies specializing in Daoist philosophy at the University of Chicago. She is researching pieces in the Museum’s Chinese collection. Her next program, “Interpreting Chinese Jade Pendants” from the Lizzadro Collection will be presented on February 11 at 2p.m. Reservations are recommended.

The nephrite Shou vase pictured here was purchased by Museum founder, Joseph Lizzadro and has been in the collection for over 60 years. The vase was likely created during the Qing Dynasty.

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