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

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