Jade Gemstone Information
About Jade - History and Introduction
Jade is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of gemstones, but the only pure forms of jade are jadeite and nephrite. The history of jade goes back several thousand years when jade was first used to make weapons and tools because of its toughness. The Mayans and Aztecs regarded jade highly and the name "jade" originates from the Spanish "piedra de ijada", meaning "stone for the pain in the side". It was named in this way after Spanish explorers saw natives of Central America holding pieces of jade to their sides, believing that it could cure ills. The Chinese refer to jade as "yu", which means "heavenly" or "imperial". Therefore, it is considered to be the imperial gem in Chinese culture. In China, jade was found in the tombs of Shang kings.
Jade also plays a part in the history of New Zealand. It is found on the South Island and has been treasured for many years by the Maoris of New Zealand, who call it "pounamu", "greenstone" or "New Zealand jade". Pounamu has been made into Maori tools, such as chisels and fish hooks, and weapons, such as short clubs and ornaments. This New Zealand jade is usually nephrite. Spinach-green nephrite from the Lake Baikal region of Russia is known as "Russian jade". Jadeite is the rarer of the two varieties of jade, and as a result it is more precious. The most valuable variety of jade is a striking and even emerald green jadeite, known as "imperial jade".
Identifying Jade Back to Top
Jade can be distinguished from other similar materials by its hardness and density. There are a lot of other materials fraudulently sold as jade and it is difficult to identify jade by outside appearance. The most reliable method of identifying jade from other substances is by testing its specific gravity. A simple test to distinguish jadeite from nephrite is a chime test. Nephrite emits a musical tone when it is struck, whereas jadeite does not.
Jade; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Nephrite is more common than jadeite and deposits have been found in New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, China, Canada, Zimbabwe, Russia, Taiwan, Alaska and Poland. The main source of jadeite is Myanmar (Burma), which is also the only source of imperial jadeite. Jadeite is also found in Japan, Canada, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Cuba and the USA.
Buying Jade and Determining Jade Gemstone Value Back to Top
Jade Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Jade: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Chloromelanite, also known as jade albite or "maw-sit-sit", the name given to it after the village where it was discovered in Burma, is closely related to jade, as is jade omphacite. Chloromelanite is made of a mineral called kosmochlor and it also contains some jadeite. Other minerals that are associated with jade are serpentine, nepheline, calcite, quartz, aragonite, glaucophane and vesuvianite. Serpentine looks similar to jade, but serpentine is softer, less dense and feels greasy to the touch. Jade can be mistaken for heat-treated agalmatolite and actinolite, which have different chemical compositions to jade. Jade should not be confused with aventurine, which is misleadingly sold as "Indian jade". "Russian jade" and "Wyoming jade" are types of nephrite. "Wyoming jade" can also refer to another substance composed of tremoite and albite. Chrysoprase is also passed off as "Australian jade", but has a lower density than jade and forms as trigonal crystals, whereas jade crystals are monoclinic.
Jade Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
The Mayans and Aztecs believed that jade could cure pains in the side of the body. This is where the name "jade" originated, since early Spanish explorers named it "piedra de ijada", meaning "stone for the pain in the side". The Chinese named jade "yu", meaning "heavenly stone", "imperial gem" or "precious gem", and in China, jadeite symbolizes goodness, beauty and purity. In China, jade is considered to be so precious that there is a Chinese saying that goes, "gold is valuable; jade is priceless". Jade is thought to possess health-strengthening properties and encourage longevity. The Chinese often carve jade into traditional figures that bring further meaning, such as dragons, which are symbols of power and prosperity. In feng shui, jade is thought to influence prosperity and health. Jade is thought by the Chinese to possess healing properties, and bangles that are carved from a single piece of jade are thought to protect the wearer. There are numerous stories told of jade bangle wearers becoming seriously ill or being involved in accidents. In each of these stories, the bangle broke at a critical time and then the wearer miraculously recovered from their illness or emerged from the accident free from injury. It is said that the jade bangle absorbs the negative energy, thus protecting the wearer. It is also believed that jade reflects the life of the wearer, becoming more brilliant and bright during good times and losing its lustre in times of suffering. In astrology, jade is associated with the sign of Taurus. Furthermore, jade is believed to allow its wearer to open their heart in readiness for love.
Jade Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top
The versatility of jade makes it ideal for a variety of uses. Jade is often cut en cabochon, for rings, or into spheres or discs, for necklaces. It is also carved into intricate ornaments that can be worn as brooches or other ornaments. Jade is ideal for both men and women. It can be mixed with other gems and set in gold or silver. For men, popular jade jewellery items are chunky rings, tie pins, cuff links and pendants. For ladies, jade can be worn as pendants, beaded necklaces or bracelets, charm bracelets, bangles, rings, earrings or hair ornaments. In the East, jade jewellery is even given to young children, in the form of bangles.
Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Famous Jade Gemstones Back to Top
There are culturally and artistically significant pieces of jade that have reached high prices in several parts of the world. A beautiful vivid green jadeite beaded necklace, known as the "doubly fortunate necklace" was sold at Christie's in 1997 for an amazing $9.3 million. Its name refers to the owners' fortunes doubling with each cut of the source boulder. There are also historically significant jade items displayed in museums all over the world. One such example is the Jadeite Cabbage, which was carved from a piece of jadeite. It is an amazingly true-to-life colour representation of a Chinese cabbage and features camouflaged insects in its leaves. It is displayed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. Another exquisitely carved jadeite item is the famous 50 cm tall Jade Dragon Vase, carved from lavender and green Burmese jadeite. It is exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, USA. Both the Jadeite Cabbage and the Jade Dragon Vase are stunning examples of how finely and delicately jadeite can be carved. A nephrite jade burial suit, dating from the Han Dynasty, which reigned over 2000 years ago, is displayed at China's National Museum in Beijing. In the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, a fifth century gold crown is displayed, which features comma-shaped jadeite beads, called "gokok". Also a green jadeite Maya Maize God pendant from Mexico is part of the display at the National Museum of the American Indian, USA. Additionally, a grey Mexican Olmec jadeite mask is part of the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, USA.
Jade Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Although jade is a tough material, it should be cared for properly in order to maintain its lustre. To clean your jade, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Store jade away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.
- First Published: March-23-2007
- Last Updated: May-30-2014
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