Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Distinguishing Between True and Fake Jade

B-jade bangle bracelet with resin-filled areas
seen under microscope in reflected light.
Photo Copyright: Richard W. Hughes
Photo Credit: Palagems

Whether you’re looking to purchase a beautiful jade necklace or a therapeutic piece of jade to use for body work, it is imperative that you take every precaution against bringing home an inferior stone. Although receiving a certificate of authenticity (based on scientific tests appropriate for jade) from a certified gemologist is the only way to guarantee that a piece of jade is genuine, there are a few ways for a layman to identify the most obvious fakes on the market.

Despite some claims that any stone that looks like jade will have the same calming and curative effects of jade, this is simply not true in most cases. Of course, jade look-alikes certainly make beautiful jewelry, and home d├ęcor made of similar-looking stones or glass can bring the beauty and aesthetic harmony to a room.

However, if you're looking for a piece of jade that will vibrate at a frequency capable of restoring balance to your body or drawing negative energy out of the room, or if you’re making an investment by purchasing a piece of jade jewelry or a jade carving, nothing less than true nephrite or jadeite jade will suffice.

Repaired jadeite bangle bracelet.
Colorless line is the cement layer.
Under UV light, the glue fluoresced blue.
Photo Copyright: Richard W. Hughes
Photo Found: Palagems

Do Your Due Diligence

Unfortunately, since the 1980s, low-quality jade and outright fakes have flowed steadily into the marketplace in such quantities that buyers must beware even when the merchants make claims of authenticity and great value, and even when such stones appear to radiate every essential quality of the lustrous green stone.

The first step in ensuring that your purchase does not disappoint you is to do your research. Buy from reputable buyers who have established credentials and a permanent store location. Choose dealers who are willing to back their claims with certification from an authorized gemologist.
Spend time learning about the different forms of jade, as well as those stones labeled jade which are not truly jadeite or nephrite. When you step into a shop to buy your jade, be sure you can ask informed questions, such as:
  • Is this stone dyed?
  • Is this nephrite or jadeite?
  • Is this A-jade or B-jade?
  • Where did this jade come from?
Go in with a clear idea of what quality and type of jade you are looking for and inform the dealer that you desire only authentic jade. If you are in the market for A-jade, be prepared to insist on outside tests in order to confirm your purchase and don’t hesitate to walk away if you have the slightest concern that they are not able to guarantee that you’re purchasing top-quality jadeite or nephrite.
As part of your research, consider casually visiting agate shops, gem shows, or reputable jewelry dealers in your area. Especially in agate shops or at gem shows, you should be able to handle genuine articles of jade. Inspect them carefully, noting the range of colors, the way the color is dispersed within the stone, and how it reflects light. By touching the genuine article as often as possible before making your purchase, it will be easier to intuitively discern between real jade and knockoffs.

Upper left, magnification reveals round gas bubbles.
Bottom right, jadeite cabochon, hollowed out to enhance color; injected with resin;
bezel set with closed backing to conceal the tampering.
Photo Copyright: Richard W. Hughes
Photo Found: Palagem

Inspect Your Prospects Closely
Once you’ve chosen a piece for purchase, be sure to inspect it closely. Look for inconsistencies in tone and color. Though jade is naturally variable in color, even sometimes in the same piece, you should be able to detect natural variations versus stains from dye. You may want to bring along a magnifying glass so that you can look closely at the texture and color distribution.

True jade should be grainy and/or dimpled ("orange peel effect") in appearance, even when highly polished. If the piece you’re holding is too smooth or too glossy, you may be holding a fake or an overtreated piece of low-quality jade. Though new polishing techniques have diminished the dimpling, jade will still appear matted or grainy rather than glass-smooth, especially when magnified.

When looking at a piece of mounted jade jewelry, you’ll want to pay very careful attention. If possible, request that the stone be removed from its mount so you can inspect the back. A common tactic for passing off cheap substitutes is to paste a thin layer of true jade over the top of a piece of colorless plastic or green resin. Shadier merchants will feel justified in claiming it is true jade, since it does have some true jade in it. If you can look at the stone unencumbered by its setting, you will be able to see the layered effect.

For an even closer inspection, you will need a loupe or microscope and table lamp. These are worth investing in if you’re serious about collecting or buying gemstones for therapeutic use. Only authentic stones will resonate at the frequencies cited by holistic healers. Under higher magnification, you should be able to see very clearly jade’s fibrous structure and its natural inclusions.

Nephrite under microsope
Photo Credit: Slam6921

Beware the Merchant's Tricks
Some East Asian jade dealers have started acid washing lower quality stones to remove inclusions, which diminishes its color and hardness. After removing these inclusions, they inject a plastic polymer resin to fill in the resulting gaps.

The end product appears to be A-grade jade in color, but it is nothing of the sort. Yet even the highest quality jade will have microscopic inclusions. If you’re looking under a microscope and see no evidence of other elements within the crystal structure, your alarm bells should sound off.

If you’re in the market for A-grade jadeite jade, you must be prepared to pay a high price. Even top-quality nephrite is pricey. Be suspicious of smashing deals. In all likelihood, they are not dealing in gemstone-quality jade. Unless you are beginning a collection or have saved up enough to make a one-time investment in a premier piece of jade jewelry, B-jade may be sufficient for your purposes.

Especially when making a purchase for therapeutic use, even lower-quality jade, as long as it is truly jadeite or nephrite, will have all the properties necessary to effect your body systems. You can confidently spend far less on your piece, as long as you ensure that you are buying true jade.

Jade noir 2581.jpg
Black Jade, detail
Photo by Vassil, 2007
Public Domain

What's In a Name?
There are many non-jade stones that are called jade. With names like Australian jade, Siberian jade, pink jade, and countless others, it's no surprise that amateurs are duped into buying, at best, serpentine (Australian jade) or, at worst, dyed quartz (some forms of pink jade) or glass (Siberian jade).

Always verify that what you are buying is true nephrite (called Chinese jade, Oriental jade, Polar jade, pounamu, spinach jade, etc.) or true jadeite (Imperial Jade, Apple jade, Kingfisher jade, Chicken bone, moss-in-the-snow, etc.). This is why it is so important to educate yourself before you hit the marketplace.

Asking a dealer where the jade was found is another way to ferret out junk jade. True nephrite jade is primarily found in Khotan in China, the Cowell Province in New Zealand, Australia, British Columbia, and Siberia.

Authentic, top-quality commercial jadeite, even if purchased from Asian dealers, comes primarily from the Burmese mines of the Tawmaw plateau in Myanmar.

Blueish-green jadeite is now sourced from the Motaqua Valley in Guatemala. While this blue jade may not be commercially sold as of yet, it may enter the market in the near future.

If your dealer doesn’t know where his jade came from, then exercise great caution and consider requiring authentication before purchase.


1. "Case Study: Jade and its Historic and Modern Meanings for Trade." The Trade and Environment Database. Accessed September 19, 2012.
2. Dietrich, R.V. "Jade (jadeite)." Stoneplus. Last updated April 16, 2012.
3. Dietrich, R.V. "Jade (nephrite)." Stoneplus. Last updated January 20, 2012.
4. "Jade." International Colored Gemstone Association. Accessed September 26, 2012.
5. "Jade Gemstone." Sunny Ray website. Accessed September 26, 2012.
6. Keverne, Roger, editor. Jade. New York: Lorenz Books, 1995.
7. Leaming, Stan and Hudson, Rick. Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven. Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd.: Surrey, BC, 2005.
8. "Nephrite." Optical Mineralogy. Last updated May 15, 2009.
9. Sun, Tay Thye. "The Changing Face of Jade." SSEF Alumni Newsletter, No. 3, January 2006.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, September 24, 2012

Modern Jade Healing Practices

Jade Massage
Photo Credit: Oceanna Wellness

Both nephrite and jadeite jade are used in modern gemstone therapy around the world. Holistic healers today believe that many types of stones can act as tuning forks to realign our body systems and reduce symptoms associated with all manner of disease. It is generally understood that the energy field of an organic object that resonates in harmony can effect another organic object in disharmony, effectively bringing it back into homeostasis.

Jade, which emit an ideal vibration of 11, is said to effectively release blockage caused by toxic buildup, stimulating the kidneys and the excretory system to more efficiently eliminate waste and filter out toxins from the bloodstream.

Renowned crystal healer, Naisha Ahsian, writes that nephrite and jadeite have distinctive healing properties. Whereas nephrite is effective in supporting the central nervous system, jadeite is indicated for detoxification and wound repair after surgery or trauma. Trained healer and counselor, Judy Hall, corroborates Ahsian’s claims that jade is effective in detoxification of the kidneys and what she calls “energetically restructuring cells,” another way of saying that it helps repair skin abrasions.

Massage and acupressure therapist, Cherri Ross Thompson, reports that massage with jade can provide relief for those suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and can also provide protection against amnesia and dementia.

Jade is also widely used to relieve pain from muscle cramping of any kind, including athletic injury and childbirth. It is also reported to boost the immune system, provide strength to the heart, and regulate metabolism.

While many modern healers instruct their clients to apply jade directly to the skin over the affected area for at least 20 minutes, others recommend carrying it in a pocket, placing it on their desk at work, or holding it while meditating. Still others recommend wearing it as a pendant against the solar plexus.

Many of the experts exhort their clients to be on alert when purchasing jade, as there are many subpar specimens and outright fakes on the market.


1. Dean, Benjamin. "How do Healing Crystals Work?" Emily Gems website. Accessed September 24, 2012.
2. Hall, Judy. 101 Power Crystals. Fair Winds: Lions Bay, BC Canada, 2011.
3. "Migun Jade Massage Heads." The Skin Cell website. Accessed September 24, 2012.
4. Parker, Laura. "How to Cure Kidney Stones with Jade." eHow. Video presentation.
5. Randazzo, Sela. "Jade, The Grandfather Stone of Healing." Rock-Medicine website. Accessed September 24, 2012.
6. "Red Jade." The Crystal Vaults. Accessed September 24, 2012.
7. Simmons, Robert and Ahsian, Naisha. The Book of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach. North Atlantic Books and Heaven and Earth Publishing, LLC: Berkeley, 2005.
8. Todd, Sarah. "The Mythology of Jade." Suite101. Posted July 8, 2010.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jade Healing Practices in the Prehistoric Americas

Mesoamerican Jade Artifact
Copyright 2005, Authentic Maya

In Mesoamerica (Central America/Mexico), it is believed that prehistoric Native Americans, such as the Olmecs and the Mayas, used jadeite jade to cure snakebite, fever, gout, and kidney stones. It is believed that they passed these customs on to the Aztecs, who in turn passed them on to the Spanish conquistadors, who returned home wearing jade stones tied around their arms or to flanking their hips as a remedy for kidney stones.

Apparently, jade was also found in abundance along the Amazon. Sir Walter Raleigh, who explored South America, particularly Guyana, reported purchasing green stones formed into 2-inch perforated cylinders. He and his men tied these talismans around their hips to help them pass kidney stones.

The editor of Raleigh’s book, Sir Robert Schomburgk, reported that these stones were found at the Orinoco and Rio Branco rivers. Today, these sites are believed to have been fed by the Guatemalan jade deposits near the Motaqua fault, as there are no known native jade veins in South America.

Schomburgk relies heavily upon the works of Baron Alexander von Humboldt, a famous German naturalist and explorer who also explored some of the same areas as Raleigh did. Humboldt reported that the Indians along the Amazon used the green stones as amulets which “preserved the wearer against nervous diseases and liver complaints, fevers, and the bite of snakes.” {Raleigh, p. 29}

Between the Spaniards and the English explorers, it’s no wonder that 19th century physicians in Europe encouraged their patients to tie a piece of the green stone to their arm or hip to cure kidney stones.


1. Coppens, Philip. "The Royal Stone of the Maya." Philip Coppens website. Accessed September 21, 2012.
2. Raleigh, Sir Walter. The Discovery of the Empire of Guiana. London: Richard and John E. Taylor, 1843. Edited by Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, Ph.D.
3. "What is Jade." Mountain Jade. Accessed September 21, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Healing Properties of Jade

Liangzhu culture, ca. 3300-2250 BCE,
Chinese Nephrite Bi Disks, Freer Gallery of Art Exhibition,
Copyright 2012, Smithsonian Institute
Photo Source: Style Court Blog

The ancient texts of many cultures around the world have included at least some reference to the power of gemstones, often citing their healing properties. Despite its unique characteristics, jade is no exception. In fact, in both Asia and Mesoamerica (pre-historic Central America/Mexico) jade was believed to be a panacea of sorts, used for healing all manner of conditions, most notably for diseases of the kidneys.

In Asia, the ancient Chinese celebrated nephrite jade as a powerful healer for improving blood circulation and providing support to the central nervous system. It was believed that drinking a tonic made from rice and jade powder boiled in sacred dew-water would detoxify a person’s blood, tone his muscles, regenerate and add strength to his bones, and calm his mind. They also believed that eating powdered jade would invigorate the heart and lungs and protect a person from illness, thereby guaranteeing longevity.

It is no surprise that ingestion of nephrite would encourage red blood cell production, strengthen bones, and aid in digestion. Nephrite is primarily composed of magnesium, iron, and calcium, all of which are powerful blood and bone builders. Magnesium and calcium are a potent combination for increasing bone density, and iron aids in building up red blood cells. Calcium is also a powerful digestive aid, particularly for acid reflux.

Asian healers also believed that holding or applying jade to an ailing part of the body would alleviate pain, decrease swelling, and restore harmony to body systems, especially the circulatory and excretory systems. Many modern-day practitioners follow the Asian practice of placing nephrite jade over the heart or over the kidneys for 15 to 20 minutes. Others apply jade stones over acupressure points or for deep tissue massage, believing that the stones act as tuning forks to realign the body’s systems.

Remarkably, early inhabitants of both North and South America also used jade (jadeite) for some of the very same complaints.


1. "Case Study: Jade and its Historic and Modern Meanings for Trade." The Trade and Environment Database. Accessed September 19, 2012.
2. Parker, Laura. "How to Cure Kidney Stones with Jade." eHow video presentation. Accessed September 19, 2012.
3. "Red Jade." The Crystal Vaults. Accessed September 19, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, September 17, 2012

How Jade Forms

Satellite image showing Yutien at the southern edge of the Talka-Makan
desert and the Kunlun Mountain chain with Mountain Jade deposits.
Photo credit: Friends of Jade

Many geologists believe that both nephrite and jadeite jade form primarily along subduction zones. A subduction zone is an area where one tectonic plate sinks beneath another one, setting off an earthquake.

These subduction zones are hailed by most geologists as the birthplace of volcanoes. It is believed that the same heat and pressure that forge the fiery furnaces are also responsible for the formation of nephrite and jadeite jade.

The force of this type of collision often causes rocks to shatter, opening small cracks into which chemical-rich thermal water flows from beneath the earth. Thermal water infused with all the right minerals and elements required to form jade are driven toward these newly formed fissures by heat and high pressures from below. As the water flows through the cracks and begins to cool, it leaves behind layer after layer of microcrystals of jadeite or nephrite which eventually completely fill in the chasm.

When the plates shift once again, either a week, a month, or even years later, the same crack, or a new one nearby opens up, repeating the same process all over again. For some of the huge deposits of jade to have formed by this process, it would have required a substantial number of earthquakes.

Dr. George Harlow, jade specialist at the American Museum of Natural History, postulates that it would take millions of earthquakes to make a large deposit like the one most recently discovered in Guatemala.

While this theory holds much water in the field of jade formation (pun intended), there is some evidence that there are different geological processes responsible for different types of jade in different regions. This warrants further research and a followup article at a later time.

Read about the Composition of Jade


1. Harlow, George. "Jade." American Museum of Natural History: Ology. Accessed September 14, 2012.
2. Jie, Ma Wen. "How Jade the Mineral Formed." eHow. Accessed September 14, 2012.
3. "Mesoamerican Jade." Authentic Maya. Last updated January 28, 2011.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are the Jade Sources Really in Danger of Depletion?

Guatemala Blue Jadeite
Photo Credit: Blue Jades

Rumor has it that the geological sources for top-quality jade are at risk of being depleted. This rumor, maintained by Chinese jade traders, might be driving the price of jade higher and higher each year.

In some areas of China, such as Hotan (Khotan), government agencies have cracked down on commercial pillage of the beautiful white nephrite jade along the White Jade River (Yurungkash) area. They are concerned that this age-old source of mutton-fat jade might be completely depleted if they don't protect it.

It is also true that known sources for high-quality nephrite and jadeite jade in the world are limited. However, even a cursory bit of research could make a person wonder if this rumor of jade's growing scarcity is a bit exaggerated.

In Burma (Myanmar), gemstone-quality jadeite jade continues to be exported at rates in excess of 46,000 tons. And as recently as 2010, jade expert Wang Chunyun reported that untouched tracts of white jade run through the Kunlun Mountains. Furthermore, as far away as Australia, Korea, and Poland, there are reports of similarly untapped jade lodes.

Mr. Wang, though unwilling to attempt to dispel the rumor in the marketplace (on the grounds that "it would be too much of a psychological blow"), told New York Times reporter, Andrew Jacobs that "the rarity of jade is a myth."

In fact, in 2011 a team of scientists and scholars located a staggering cache of blue-green jadeite jade north of the Motaqua fault in Guatemala that was reported to have produced house- and bus-sized boulders of jadeite. This same team later found jade veins as wide as 2 feet running along the hillsides in a 50-yard stretch.

Several miles south of the fault line, the team found more "huge boulders of blue." Dr. Virginia Sisson, of Rice University, told a reporter that this jade rivaled the quality of any that they had found in Burma, the leading source of top-quality commercial jadeite jade in the world.

While it is true that the jadeite north of the fault line is not grade A (commercial-quality), it sounds like the stones found south of the fault may prove to be commercially viable, once the long-range scientific research has been completed in the area. This is what we know about jadeite jade.

Fraser River Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Photo Credit: Scented Leaf Blog

Furthermore, another form of jewelry-grade jade is found in abundance throughout the world. Nephrite jade is currently available in regions of China (Turkestan), Australia, the United States, Canada (British Columbia), and more.

The nephrite found in British Columbia is most intriguing, and not just because it's close to home. What makes it pertinent to a discussion of jade's rarity is that the primary geological source remains concealed from discovery.

Though much of the nephrite specimens gathered from B.C.'s Fraser River valley are considered low quality, there is a possibility that higher-quality tracts might lie deep beneath the earth's surface or along the hillsides rising up from the river bed. Deposits of this same type of green nephrite jade can be found as far south as the Cascade Mountain regions of Washington State, though this particular jade is usually called "Canada jade" or "British Columbia jade."

Another source of nephrite jade was found in Alaska in 1885. Many boulders have been collected along the Shungnak River, nestled between Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Though this region was primarily mined for gold through the 1950s, fine-quality nephrite boulders have been found as well. This remote and fairly untouched source of nephrite is believed to cover a large area at its source. Unfortunately, the nephrite in this valley is rough, scaly, and opaque, mostly unfit for cutting.

Further nephrite-rich deposits were found in Australia in the 1960s and '70s. Considered one of the largest nephrite-producing regions in the world, the Cowell Jade Province boasts over a hundred known jade caches. This area produces three varieties of high-quality nephrite jade: green, black, and premium black. On occasion, slices of rare varieties of nephrite with dendritic inclusions are discovered. These beautiful inclusions appear as wavy banding along the jade boulder rinds.

As a final example of a nearly untapped source of nephrite jade, the Kunlun Mountain region in Chinese Turkestan is reported to harbor a layer of between 20 and 40 feet of nephrite on the mountain's north slopes. While most of the jade discovered in this region has run off into the Karakash, Yurangkash, and Keriya Rivers, it is reported that the source band of nephrite stretches for miles along the mountainside.

With all of these uncultivated and newly discovered sources of jade around the world, it is clear that although it may be true that high-quality jade may indeed tap out, it would be hard to defend a position that jade is actually growing scarce today.


1. Broad, William J. "In Guatemala, a Mother Lode of Jade." GSA Foundation. Accessed September 12, 2012.
2. Hansen, Kathryn. "Unlocking Jade's Secrets." Geotimes, August 2006.
3. Jacobs, Andrew. "Jade From China's West Surpasses Gold in Value." The New York Times. Published online September 20, 2010.
4. Magnier, Mark. "Jade Trade Chips Away at a Bit of China's Soul." Los Angeles Times. Published online September 17, 2006.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Chemical Properties of Nephrite Jade

Teapot made of "Mutton-Fat" Nephrite Jade
Photo credit: Cha Dao

Nephrite jade, long coveted by Chinese Emperors, is a monoclinic amphibole which forms in a variety of colors, including green, yellow, white, grey, and brown-to-black. Amphiboles are generally composed of double chain silica and oxygen chains linked at vertices infused with iron and/or magnesium ions within the crystal structures. Generally, they form as dark-colored rocks. Though nephrite is not always dark in color, it is most definitely classified as an amphibole containing calcium, iron, and magnesium.

In its purest state, nephrite jade is white or yellowish-white, which the Chinese affectionately call "mutton-fat." This rare hue of nephrite, highly prized by the Chinese elite, is almost pure tremolite (a calcium and magnesium silicate in the amphibole family). Most nephrite contains trace amount of several other mineral substances, including diopside, garnet, magnetite, chromite, graphite, and others. The various compositions of these minerals within the stone called nephrite places them all in a series of amphiboles called Ferro-Actinolite-Tremolites.

As with its twin jadeite, nephrite jade owes its varied colors to trace amounts of chromium (emerald green) or graduating amounts of iron replacing some of the magnesium in the crystal structures. On the actinolite side (magnesium-rich amphibole) of the spectrum, nephrite will be green, yellow, or brown in color. Whereas, sliding over toward tremolite (calcium-rich amphibole), nephrite runs white or grey.

Nephrite is celebrated for its toughness. It has often been carved into axe heads, knife blades, and various tools for chopping. It has also long been the material of choice for Asian sculptors. It owes its durability to bundles of fine, fibrous crystals meshed together in felted layers. Under magnification, the tangled fibers woven together take on the appearance of rope.

Both tremolites and actinolites contain water molecules. One way to determine if a piece of green jade is nephrite or jadeite is to heat it in a closed glass container. If steam forms on the sides, it is likely that you have a piece of nephrite on your hands.

Read more about Jade Formation

Read more about Jadeite Jade


1. "Jade (Jadeite, Nephrite)." University of Texas, Geology. Last updated August 20, 2009.
2. Jie, Ma Wen. "How Jade the Mineral Formed." eHow. Accessed September 10, 2012.
3. Katz, Bob. "Jade." Exploring the Southwest Desert USA. Accessed September 5, 2012.
4. Keverne, Roger, ed. Jade. New York: Lorenz Books, 1995.
5. Leaming, Stan and Hudson, Rick. Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd., 2005.
6. "Mineralogy: Inosilicates." Colgate University, 1997. Accessed September 10, 2012.
7. "Nephrite." Mindat. Accessed September 10, 2012.
8. "Nephrite." Optical Mineralogy. Last updated May 15, 2009.
9. "Nephrite Jade." Dmitre Minerals. Accessed September 10, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Chemical Properties of Jadeite Jade

Jadeite Jade, small boulder
Photo Credit: Jadeite Jade

Jadeite jade, found in abundance primarily in Burma, Guatemala, and Japan, is the most highly prized form of jade in the commercial jade market. It is harder, denser, and more brilliantly colored than its fraternal twin, nephrite jade. Its scarcity and physical properties make one carat of top-quality rough jadeite worth far more than even one pound of the best rough nephrite.

Comprised primarily of single chains of silicon and oxygen atoms intruded by sodium and aluminum, jadeite jade typically forms in the highly favored emerald green color often referred to as "Imperial Jade" or "Emerald Jade." Imperial jade can also have a slightly bluish-green tone.

Chemically speaking, jadeite is classified as a pyroxene, which makes it a rock-forming silicate. It contains sodium and aluminum and derives its various colors from intrusion of trace elements within the crystal mesh structure. Trace amounts of chromium and possibly some iron are responsible for the brilliant greens, while iron by itself gives jadeite a yellow-to-yellowish-green tint. Lavender jadeite, another popular choice for jewelry, owes its coloring to either manganese or iron charge transfer.

In appearance, jadeite is granular and will be slightly dimpled once polished (due to undercutting). It is rare to see visible crystals in a piece of jadeite, though upon magnification crystals will appear as individual slender blades. Jadeite has a monoclinic structure with cleavage of 90 degrees and is void of water molecules (anhydrous).

Jadeite can vary widely in composition, sometimes grading into other pyroxene minerals. As long as a specimen of this nature maintains jadeite's gemological properties it can be labeled and sold as jadeite. These gemological properties include: Refractive Index of 1.660 - 1.680a +0.10b, spot 1.66; Specific Gravity of 3.34 + 0.11b; and Hardness of 6.5 - 7 on Mohs Scale.


1. "Jade (Jadeite, Nephrite)." University of Texas, Geology. Last updated August 20, 2009.
2. Katz, Bob. "Jade." Exploring the Southwest Desert USA. Accessed September 5, 2012.
3. Keverne, Roger, ed. Jade. New York: Lorenz Books, 1995.
4. Leaming, Stan and Hudson, Rick. Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd., 2005.
5. "Mesoamerican Jade." Authentic Maya. Last updated January 28, 2011.
6. "Mineral Jadeite, The." The Mineral & Gemstone Kingdom. Accessed September

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Composition of Jade

Nephrite boulder in Canada
Photo Credit: Jade-Jadeite

One of the toughest gem minerals, jade is an aggregate of tightly meshed, interwoven, and compact layers of microcrystals. Because of this mesh-like crystal structure, both jadeite and nephrite jade are resistant to fracturing, even after falling from great heights onto tile or marble flooring. These qualities make jade a great choice for cocktail rings.

It is this characteristic toughness that led Neolithic people groups to choose jade as a primary material for carving into axe heads and blades. Both types of jade have also long been fashioned into ritual objects, sculptures and statues, ornaments, and of course jewelry.

Since this course texture makes it nearly impossible for even the most skilled jade polishers to overcome undercutting, jade typically appears slightly greasy even at its highest shine. Nephrite typically appears greasier than jadeite, as though it's been smudged by sticky fingers.

The fibrous nature of jade also makes it difficult to facet, which is why most jade used in jewelry is formed into cabochons, beads, or discs. It has also been widely carved into scenic pendants or belt buckles.

Nephrite and jadeite come in a wide variety of colors, and despite their unique chemical properties, both are white in their purest chemical forms. The most commonly found jade of both types is pale green. Emerald green jadeite stones are the most valuable.

Jade's unique composition and formation allows for more than variations in color. It is often speckled, mottled, or streaked. While these variations can enhance the value of a particular piece of jade, if this streaking or speckling somehow compromises the internal structure of the jade it will decrease the value of the piece.

Jade most often forms in large boulders, sometimes as large as a house. These large boulders are typically rough and grey on the outside, but once cut open with special tools they can yield a wide variety of different colors and grades of precious stone within.

Jade is a spectacular gemstone on so many levels, each type holding its own secrets and intrigue.

Read more about Jade.


1. "Jade." International Colored Gemstone Association. Accessed September 5, 2012.
2. "Jade (Jadeite, Nephrite)." University of Texas, Geology. Last updated August 20, 2009.
3. Katz, Bob. "Jade." Exploring the Southwest Desert USA. Accessed September 5, 2012.

4. Keverne, Roger, ed. Jade. New York: Lorenz Books, 1995. 5. Leaming, Stan and Hudson, Rick. Jade Fever: Hunting the Stone of Heaven. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd., 2005.
6. "Mesoamerican Jade." Authentic Maya. Last updated January 28, 2011.&
7. "Mineral Jadeite, The." The Mineral & Gemstone Kingdom. Accessed September
8. Ralph, Jolyon and Chau, Ida. "Nephrite." Mindat. Accessed September 5, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Two Faces of Jade

Carved Chinese Nephrite Basin
Photo Credit: Cultural China--Arts

For over 7,000 years jade has remained firmly seated on the throne in China as the most favored gemstone. The ethereal green stone (the most favored color of jade) has oft been more highly valued than even gold or diamonds, especially in Asian cultures. At one time, it was thought to be the stone of the gods, and it has frequently been used to distinguish the upper crust of China's elite.

Similarly, for over 3,000 years jade ranked as the most precious gemstone among the ancient people groups in Mesoamerica (Central America and Mexico), starting with the Olmecs, then the Mayans, and later the Aztecs. Jade remained the stone of choice in the Americas until the Spanish brought gold fever to the Gulf Coast in the 1500s.

As different as the Chinese are from the Mesoamerican people groups, so is the distinction between Olmec jade and Chinese jade. Though the Olmec people discovered their bluish-green jade as early as 1200 BC, it wouldn't be until the late 1700s AD that the Chinese would get their hands on this more illustrious jade, sourced not from the Americas, but instead from Burma (now Myanmar).

Olmec Jade Carving, circa 10th-6th cent. BC
Photo Copyright 2000-2012, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo Credit: The Photograph Studio

It would be another 100 years or more after this "new jade" began circulating in China that the mineralogical differences between the two would be proven categorically by a French professor named Alexis Damour. China's traditional jade was called nephrite, a variation of nephriticus, the Latin word for kidney.

The Burmese jade, like the jade found in Mesoamerica, was named jadeite, a variation of the Spanish phrase piedra de ijada, which means "stone of the side." Both types of jade had long been used by ancient peoples on both continents to cure all manner of kidney and stomach ailments.

In addition to its use as a healing stone, both types of jade were carved into tools, weapons, personal adornments, ornaments, and ritual objects. Today, jadeite reigns as the king of jade, being the most commercially traded of the two types. Though jewelry is made from both nephrite and jadeite, emerald green jadeite, also called "Imperial Jade," is the most prized for making pendants, rings, and earrings.

Read more about Jadeite Jade.

Read more about jadeite's fraternal twin, Nephrite Jade.


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2. Jacobs, Andrew. "Jade from China's West Surpasses Gold in Value." The New York Times, Published online September 20, 2010.
3. Keverne, Roger, ed. Jade. New York: Lorenz Books, 1995.
4. "Research Features Jade: Stone of Heaven." University of Cambridge. Last modified May 1, 2008.
5. Roberts, Stephanie. "Jade: The Stone of Heaven." Fast Feng Shui. Last modifiied December 14, 2005.
6. Sun, Tay Thye. "The Changing Face of Jade." SSEF Alumni Newsletter, No. 3, January 2006, 5-6.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy