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Jade

Jade is actually two separate gems: nephrite and jadeite. In China, a pierced jade disk is a symbol of heaven.

Jade Description

Two different gem materials can correctly be called jade. Jadeite is one of them, and the other is nephrite. Both are actually metamorphic rocks made up of tiny interlocking mineral crystals. These interlocking crystals make both gems exceptionally tough. Jadeite comes in a wide range of attractive colors: Many shades of green, yellow, and reddish orange, plus white, gray, black, brown, and lavender (often a light purple or light grayish violet color). The coloration is often streaked or mottled, giving jadeite gemstones an interesting visual texture that carvers can use to create imaginative and intriguing effects.

Nephrite is also accepted as jade in the international gem and jewelry industry. It ranges from translucent to opaque and can be light to dark green, yellow, brown, black, gray, or white. Its colors tend to be more muted than jadeite’s, and they’re often mottled or streaked.

Modern gemologists use the word “jade” as a generic term for both nephrite and jadeite. These gems have been linked throughout history. In fact, the term jade has also been applied to a number of gems and ornamental materials that resemble jade, and even some manmade equivalents resembling jadeite and nephrite.

 Gemstone Details

  • Mineral: Jadeite and Nephrite
  • Chemistry: NaAlSi2O6 and Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2
  • Color:  Green, white, orange, yellow, lavender, black
  • Refractive index: 1.666 to 1.680 (+/-0.008) and 1.606 to 1.632 (+0.009, 0.006)
  • Birefringence:  Usually not detectable
  • Specific gravity: 3.34 and 2.95
  • Mohs Hardness: 6.5 to 7 and 6.0 to 6.5

 Birthstones and Anniversaries

 Jade is the official gem for the 12th anniversary.

Jade Gemstone as rough

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Jade History and Lore

Jade has been cherished for thousands of years. It’s considered pure and enduring enough to inspire the wearer’s highest spiritual aspirations, yet sensuous and luxurious enough to satisfy down-to-earth cravings. Asian consumers have never lost their fascination for jade, and today, non-Asian buyers are drawn to jade as never before. All are attracted by its rich heritage as much as by its beauty, durability, and rarity.

Nephrite jade has its cultural roots in the smoke-dimmed caves and huts that sheltered prehistoric humans. In China, Europe, and elsewhere around the world, Stone Age workers shaped this toughest of minerals into weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Their carvings invoked the powers of heaven and earth and mystic forces of life and death.

The ancient relationship between this gemstone and humanity persisted into modern times among native societies in New Zealand and parts of North America.  In China it evolved into an artistic tradition that has flourished for more than 3,000 years.

In Central America, the Mayans and the Aztecs prized jadeite jade. They used it for medicinal purposes as well as for jewelry, ornaments, and religious artifacts. The name jade comes from the Spanish expression piedra de ijada—literally “stone of the pain in the side.” Early Spanish explorers named it after they saw natives holding pieces of the stone to their sides to cure or relieve various aches and pains. Jadeite also symbolizes prosperity, success, and good luck.

It was in China—where the gem-carving tradition was already thousands of years old—that jadeite reached its peak as an important artistic medium. The first jadeite reached China from Burma (now known as Myanmar) in the late 1700s, and late eighteenth and early nineteenth century carvers created masterpieces that are still unsurpassed in concept, design, and technical execution.

The Chinese associate jade with clarity of mind and purity of spirit. Some of the ancient symbolic motifs still used in modern jade carvings (both nephrite and jadeite) include:

  • Bat—happiness
  • Butterfly—long life
  • Dragon—power, prosperity, and goodness
  • Peach—immortality
  • Bi (flat circular disk with a hole in the center) – heaven

Facts about Jade Gemstone

INTERACTION WITH LIGHT

Jadeite’s structure scatters light. If properly cut, a white piece with a small green spot will make the gem appear completely green if lit from behind

TOUGH, BUT NOT HARD

Not unusually hard for a gem, both jade types are extremely tough. Neolithic knives and axe heads were often made of nephrite.

MUSICAL JADE

Nephrite rings musically when struck. The imperial court in China had jade wind chimes designed to ring specific notes.

Quality Factors

Colour

While jade is rarely faceted like other gems, plain as well as intricate jade carvings are judged by their artistry.

Transparency

Jadeite’s transparency ranges from completely opaque to semi-transparent. The best jadeite is semi-transparent.

Texture

Jadeite has a lovely, smooth, and even texture that makes people want to touch and hold the gem.

Cut

While jade is rarely faceted like other gems, plain as well as intricate jade carvings are judged by their artistry.

Carat Weight

Jadeite is generally sold by the piece rather than by weight. For top-quality imperial jadeite, slight size differences can make large value differences.