ROMANCE, HISTORY & LORE
Jade, a timeless, soothing gemstone with glassy green tones, is as beloved today as it has been throughout the ages.
The Chinese have treasured jade for centuries, considering it the gemstone of royalty and a bridge between the spiritual and material realms.
In Central America, the Olmecs, Azetcs, Mayans, and Toltecs all prized jade’s beauty. They used it as currency, as well as for ceremonial pieces and religious relics.
The Portuguese introduced jade to Europe from China, and believed it was a cure for kidney ailments.
Today, jade is a term to describe two different gemstones – jadeite jade and nephrite jade.
While jadeite is mined today primarily in Myanmar, small quantities can be found in Guatemala. Nephrite jade is mined in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Taiwan.
SELECTING A STONE
Jadeite jade is considered more valuable than nephrite jade due to its vivid green color, fine translucency, and rarity. Jadeite also comes in lavender, pink, yellow, and white. The Emerald Buddha, the sacred image enshrined at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok, Thailand, is carved from emerald-green jadeite. Nephrite, found throughout the world, is also found in dark spinach greens, white, browns, and black.
Because of its smooth even texture, both jadeite and nephrite have long been a preferred material for carving. The most common shape is the flat donut-shaped disc called a pi, which is commonly worn as a necklace.
The finest jadeite stones are usually cut into smooth dome shapes called cabochons. Jadeite bangles and beads are also very popular, especially throughout Asia.
Unlike most gemstones, jade is typically sold by the piece rather than per carat. While depth of color is the most significant value factor, translucency, texture, and pattern also effect its value. Certain patterns, including “moss in snow,” are highly prized.
Both jadeite and nephrite are durable and tough, though jadeite is slightly harder than nephrite due to its microcrystalline structure. Clean with mild dish soap: use a soft brush to scrub behind the stone where dust can collect. As with all fine jewelry, jade should be removed before sleeping.