The Origins of Jade: The Stone's Ancient History
There are few gemstones with a history as rich and diverse as jade. Its journey dates back to the prehistoric era, appearing as far back as 5000 BC during the early Neolithic period. This remarkable stone has transitioned from a functional tool to one of the world's most popular and sought-after gemstones.
Originally prized for its toughness, jade was first used to create axes, knives, and other utilitarian tools. But it wasn't long before our ancestors began to appreciate the stone's aesthetic appeal, paving the way for its use in ceremonial objects and personal ornaments.
Over the centuries, this stone has continued to enchant civilizations across the globe, from the ancient tribes of New Zealand to the imperial courts of China, the Maya in Central America, and the indigenous tribes of North America. Its enduring allure lies in its symbolic associations with purity, harmony, and balance and its wide array of captivating colors, ranging from the most delicate lavender to the deepest emerald green.
Today, the appeal of jade remains undiminished. Whether it is set in contemporary high-end jewelry or carved into a traditional talisman, this ancient gem continues to captivate with its unique blend of history, beauty, and spiritual resonance. It is safe to say that the long history of jade is still being written, with each new piece carrying the legacy of this timeless gemstone into the future.
What is Jade?
Did you know that 'jade' categorizes two different minerals— Nephrite and Jadeite?
It is a mineral composed of either jadeite or nephrite. It's a dense, hard, and high-quality stone with a tight interlocking crystalline structure.
Both are extremely tough and resistant to breakage, which made them ideal for making tools and weapons in ancient times. Jade's resistance to breakage meant that axes, knives, and scrapers made from this material could be both thin and sturdy—a valuable attribute in an era before the advent of metalworking. These properties make it an excellent material for intricate carvings and jewelry.
Jade's color can range from white to black, with green being the most common. It's commonly used in jewelry and beads due to its strength and beauty.
Jade represents harmony, balance, and protection.
Nephrite is known for emotional healing and purity.
Jadeite symbolizes good fortune and friendship.
Jadeite Jade: a harder, rarer form of jade referred to as true Jade, is the more valuable of the two. Treasured for its hardness and rich colors, it ranges from blue and lavender to emerald green. The most esteemed Jadeite is an intense emerald green known as "Imperial Jade," prized for its vibrant color, transparency, and texture.
Jadeite comes in shades of green, yellow, and reddish-orange, plus white, gray, black, brown, and lavender (often a light purple or light grayish violet color).
Burmese Jade: essentially high-quality Jadeite, named after its principal source—Myanmar (formerly Burma). Again, the most sought-after Burmese Jade is the translucent, rich green “Imperial Jade.”
Nephrite Jade is a type of jade known for its resilience. It can be found in varying shades of green and a creamy white form called 'mutton fat' jade. The value of Nephrite depends on its color, translucency, and texture, with intensely green, semi-transparent stones being the most prized. It is a softer, more frequently found type of jade.
Nephrite occurs mainly in light to dark green, yellow, brown, black, gray, or white colors.
Canadian Jade refers to the Nephrite Jade predominantly found in British Columbia, Canada. It is usually a rich, translucent green and is considered among the highest-quality Nephrites worldwide, highly valued and sought after for its vibrant color and clarity.
Afghanistan has a long history with jade, dating back to the Neolithic (New Stone) Age. The region was known for its nephrite deposits, traded along the ancient Silk Road network. It is believed that much of the early Chinese jade, especially in the Neolithic and Shang Dynasty periods, was sourced from Afghanistan's river boulders.
Some of the other jades that we've had the pleasure to carry in our store, or own have been from multiple counties!
Jade was used as a fundamental material in the development of early civilizations in regions such as China, New Zealand, and the Americas.
Alaskan Jade: Alaskan jade is primarily dark green and is a type of nephrite. It is the state gem of Alaska, found in large deposits.
Russian Jade: Russia has vast deposits of nephrite, particularly around the Lake Baikal region. It often has a unique and attractive green color, with quality comparable to jade from traditional sources like China and Central America.
New Zealand is renowned for Pounamu, a type of nephrite jade often called greenstone or New Zealand jade.New Zealand is renowned for Pounamu, a type of nephrite jade often called greenstone or New Zealand jade.
Since there other stones and dyed beads that are made to look like jade, stay alert and pay attention to a couple key things!
Real Jade is 6-7 on the Mohs scale. It cannot be scratched by a knife or a piece of glass.
It's a tough stone, and there should be no conchoidal fractures on or near the hole. That type of fracture would look like smooth, curved, and stepped - like the inside of an oyster shell. Which is no coincidence as the name is derived from the Latin word concha, which is oyster shell!!
There should be no bubbles.
Real jade does not glow under UV light (for the most part, there are some exceptions like with light lavender.)
New Jade, also known as Serpentine, is not technically Jade but a mineral with similar characteristics. It ranges from pale to dark green, often resembling the real deal! Although it doesn't share the same mineral composition, it is popular due to its affordability and attributed healing properties. It often has a waxy luster, similar to jade, but it's significantly less dense and durable.
Swiss Jade: Despite the name, this is a marketing term for various serpentine. It's lighter and softer than true jade and usually less expensive.
Aussie or Australian Jade: Again, despite the name, it is a type of chrysoprase, which is often mistaken for jade due to its similar color and luster.
Chyrsoprase: This green variety of chalcedony can look like jade, but its color comes from nickel rather than iron, and it's typically a more vivid green and less dense stone.
Aventurine: This form of quartz can sometimes be mistaken for jade due to its green color. However, the presence of glitters within the stone, a trait known as aventurescence, is a distinguishing feature that jade does not possess.
Energy and Symbolism
Jade's symbolic value increased with the rise of metalwork in societies, particularly in China where it was admired for its beauty and linked to nobility and virtue.
In addition to its beauty, jade was believed to possess spiritual qualities, uniting the physical and spiritual worlds. It was used to create amulets and talismans, and in religious rituals, to ward off evil and promote good health, prosperity, and longevity.
Colors and Quality
Jade comes in a variety of colors, including green, white, black, yellow, purple, and red. The quality of jade is determined by its texture, color, transparency, and structural composition.
Black Jade is known for its deep, dark tones and is loved for its intense color and luster when polished.
Lavender Jade is a unique type of jadeite with a purple color that can vary in intensity, with more intense colors being more valuable.
Translucent Jade is a category of jadeite that has a high degree of transparency, with more transparent jade being more valuable.
6 Perfect Projects with Jade!
Jade is a versatile gemstone that can make a thoughtful and beautiful gift for various occasions due to its rich symbolism and timeless beauty. Here are some situations where jade jewelry would make the perfect gift:
1. Bridal Jewelry: Because this stone is known for signifying purity, grace, and love, which makes it an ideal stone for weddings. A jade pendant or pair of earrings can make a lovely "something new" or "something green" for a bride on her wedding day. In some Asian cultures, jade is also often given to brides to symbolize eternal love.
2. Graduation Gifts: Due to its association with wisdom, protection, and balance, this green gem makes an excellent gift for graduates. A jade pendant or charm can symbolize wishing the recipient good luck and success in the next phase of life.
3. Mother's Day: Jade is traditionally associated with nurturing and motherhood, making it an excellent choice for Mother's Day gifts. A brooch or pendant can symbolize gratitude for a mother's love and care.
4. Healing and Wellness Gifts: Known for its healing properties and promoting harmony and balance, jade can be a thoughtful gift for someone going through a tough time or starting on a new health journey. A bangle or a tumbled piece for them to carry can constantly remind them of your support and their strength.
5. Spiritual or Meditation Jewelry: Because of its calming properties and its connection to the heart chakra, jade is often used in spiritual and meditation jewelry. A mala or meditation bead can be a meaningful gift for someone who values their spiritual or meditative practice.
The rich symbolism and history of jade add depth to its beauty, making it a gift that is beautiful to wear and meaningful to receive.