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".
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.
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.
Jade ranges in colour. It occurs in green, white, orange, yellow, lavender, grey and black. The most highly valued jade is a vivid emerald green and is semi-transparent. It is known as imperial jade and only occurs in Burma (Myanmar). Jade can be more than one colour in a single gem. Jade in which the colour is evenly distributed is highly valued. However, colour preferences vary depending on the region. For example, in the West, deep and vivid green jade is preferred, but in the Far East, pure white or yellow jade with a pink tone is prized, along with green imperial jade.
Jade Clarity and Lustre
Jade lustre depends on the exact gem type. When polished, nephrite tends to have a vitreous (glass-like) to greasy lustre where jadeite more often has a greasy lustre when polished.
Jade Cut and Shape
Jade is extremely versatile and is can be carved into intricate shapes. It is carved into a variety of traditional Chinese figures, such as Buddhas, dogs, dragons, bats, butterflies, peaches and discs. It is also made into all manner of practical items, such as buttons, cups, plates and salt and pepper pots. Jade is used to make beautiful ornaments and is also fashioned into beads, cabochons for rings, brooches and fancy pendants. Entire bangles are also fashioned from jade. Most jade is cut in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. Rough jade is often bought as slices, which show no indication of the quality of the material inside. The quality of the jade inside is not known until the rough stone is cut.
Jade is often bleached with acid to remove brown pigments. Bleaching causes jade to become porous and more prone to breakage, so after bleaching the jade is often impregnated with a polymer, which fills the fractures and improves its appearance. A "Chelsea filter" can be used to ascertain whether jade has been artificially dyed. When looked at through such a filter, dyed jade will show red. The Chinese jade industry uses a grading system to classify jadeite by the amount of enhancement it has received. According to the system, grade A jadeite is not dyed nor impregnated but may have received a coating, which is considered stable. Grade B jadeite may have been impregnated and bleached but is not dyed. Grade C jadeite is dyed and impregnated, and grade D jadeite is not real jadeite. All reputable jade suppliers will declare any treatments or enhancements.
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.
Amazonite, can be mistaken for jade, but it has a lower density than jade. Californite is sometimes falsely referred to as "California jade", but as a form of idocrase, it has a tetragonal crystal system, which sets it apart from the monoclinic jade. Hydrogrossular garnet can be mistaken for jade, but it can be distinguished by its cubic crystal system, which differs from the monoclinic crystal system of jade. Prehnite can be confused with jade, but forms in orthorhombic crystals, whereas jade has a monoclinic crystal system. Pectolite, smithsonite, verdite and plasma can also be mistaken for jade, but they lack the hardness of jade. On the other hand, emerald is harder than jade, which can help to distinguish between the two.
Jade Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Crystal Powers
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.
Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
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.
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.
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.