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What is Jade?

Jade is actually two gemstones that are very similar and considered the same thing to the average person. The two stones that are considered jade are jadeite and nephrite.

What are the scientific properties of jade?

In 1863, Alexis Damour discovered it was two different minerals. Jadeite is a silicate of sodium and aluminum, and is also referred to as an aluminum rich pyroxene or a silicate pyroxene. Nephrite is a silicate of calcium and magnesium and is also referred to as a magnesium rich amphibole or silicate amphibole.

What is a silicate? Most rocks are silicates – 90% of them! A silicate is an insoluble complex metal salt that contains silicon and oxygen in the anion.

What is an anion? An anion is a negatively charged ion. The positive charged ion is called a cation.

Jade is actually harder than steel on the Mohs mineral hardness scale. Jadeite measures 6.5 to 7 and nephrite measures 6 to 6.5. Both jadeite and nephrite are found in metamorphic rocks in subduction zones. Jadeite is found in higher pressure origins than nephrite. Nephrite is more common than jadeite and has a denser structure than jadeite.

How did jade get its name?

Jade got it's name because people thought that it was a healing stone for kidney problems. This probably came about when Spanish explorers saw Central American people wearing nephrite against their sides. Spaniards named the stone 'Piedra de Ijada' which translates to 'stone for the pain in the side'. The Greek word for kidney is nephrite so its name was chosen for jade because of its perceived use as a cure for kidney disease.

What does jadeite and nephrite look like?

Jadeite is usually white to dark green. It is sometimes grey, pink, lilac, red, blue, yellow, orange, or black. The purest form of jadeite is white and colored jadeite is from impurities. The most valued jadeite is green and translucent. Chromium is what makes this jadeite green. Chromium is the same thing that colors emeralds green. Manganese makes jadeite mauve and lavendar toned.

Nephrite is usually white, cream, or dark green. Deep solid green and translucency make it more valuable. Uni-colored nephrite is rare. The appearance of jadeite is more glass-like than nephrite, which is less translucent and more greasy looking. Both minerals can be mistaken for aventurine or serpentine.

"Green nephrite jade (Precambrian; Granite Mountains, Wyoming, USA) 1"

Jadeite Diamond Ring Set in 18K750 White Gold

Source: Sarah J Y Wong

Jade Identification and Grading

Jadeite is graded into Types A, B, and C. Type D means that it is not jadeite. Type A is the best type because it has only been coated in wax. Type B stones have been bleached in hydrochloric or sulfuric acid then dipped in wax or pressure coated in resin. Type C stones have been bleached, dyed and coated. Type B and C make the jadeite stones brittle from the acid bleaching and dyes can also fade over time. For these reasons, Type A is the highest grade jadeite.

Chelsea filters can be used to show if jadeite has been dyed because it will appear red. Nephrite is not graded, but due to its density, it typically isn't dyed. Nephrite can emit a musical note when struck. This is called a chime test. Jadeite doesn't emit a note, so this test will only determine if a stone is nephrite.

How valuable is jade?

Jadeite is rarer than nephrite and more valuable due to its scarcity. In China, jade is as expensive as diamonds. They say in China 'gold is valuable, jade is priceless'. Chinese call it 'yu', which means heavenly or imperial. Chinese artisans used nephrite jade because there is no jadeite in China. White nephrite was most valued until the importation of Myanmar jadeite jade in the 18th century. Back then Myanmar was called Burma. Chinese artisans prefer Myanmar sourced jadeite and called it Imperial Jade. It was named Imperial Jade because back in the day, only the Emperor could own it.

"Jadeite Cabbage with Insects" by Ti Yab is licensed under

 Jadeite axe found near Breamore, Hampshire in the late 19th century. The precise findspot is unknown but it was somewhere near Marsh Farm (grid reference SU154177). It is 206 mm long, 67 mm wide at the cutting edge, and 36 mm wide at the top. It was broken in prehistoric times at the top, but the chip at the bottom was apparently caused when "Mrs Jeans" of Marsh Farm tossed it out of a window because she had been using it as a paper knife, but found that it tore paper rather than cut. It was acquired by J. W Brooke, who sold it to the Wiltshire Archaeological Society in 1916. It is now in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Petrological analysis has shown that the axehead is Alpine jadeite and that it probably came from a free-standing block near Pontinvrea/Giovo Ligure, Liguria, in the Mont Beigua massif near Genoa. The precise date of this axe or its arrival in Britain are uncertain, but two other jadeite axe-heads (or fragments of such) found in Britain have been found in a dated context to the early Neolithic period, 3900 to 3800 BC. Source - Pasicles

How long has jade been mined?

Jade has been in use for over 100,000 years. It's strength made it preferred for things such as ax heads, weapons, and hide scrapers. Jade was preferred due to its hardness.

Jadeite Diamond Ring Set in 18K750 White Gold

"Green nephrite jade (Precambrian; Granite Mountains, Wyoming, USA) 1"
by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Where is jadeite and nephrite found?

Besides Myanmar, Imperial jadeite is also found in Guatamala. It is also found in Japan, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Cuba, and the US.

New Zealand has a lot of nephrite. There are even pebbles of it in riverbeds and shorelines. In Maori, jade is called 'pounamu' and is highly regarded material used in weaponry, amulets and other things.

British Columbia is currently the largest nephrite producer. Nephrite is mined in the Dease Lake, Mt. Ogden, and Cassiar areas.

There is a lot of nephrite jade in Alaska, even a whole mountain of it called Jade Mountain on the Seward Peninsula. There is also a Jade Creek. Both are in the Kobuk River basin area.

In the Anchorage, Alaska Sheraton Hotel, they installed a staircase made of Alaskan nephrite jade. It is nicknamed “the million dollar staircase'. The nephrite for the tiles was mined in Western Alaska.

There is also nephrite in Australia, Brazil, China (Sinkiang), Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, and the US (in AK and WY).

Is there imitation jade?

Yes, besides purposely made imitations, other stones may be mistaken for jadeite or nephrite based on their similar appearance. Many sellers will use creative trade names to fool buyers into thinking they are buying actual jadeite or nephrite. Be aware of trade names such as Oregon Jade or Mexican Jade which are really other minerals that happen to be green.

Aventurine is often sold as 'Indian Jade'. Chrysoprase is sold as 'Australian Jade'. Serpentine, nepheline, calcite, quartz, aragonite, glaucophane and vesuvianite can also be confused with jade.

What are some popular types of jade?

Does jade have any special designations?

Jade is a the gemstone for Taurus. Jade was made Alaska's state gem in 1968. Jade is also the state gem of Wyoming.

What are some examples of famous jade pieces?