“It is said that the Dowager Empress had trained herself to distinguish by touch Jade from any other gemstone, and further, that she had developed a faculty for discriminating, again by touch only, between one grade of Jade and another.”
Louis Kornitzer, Gem Trader (1939)
The name of this gemstone originates from the Spanish conquest of the Americas: it was derived from ‘piedra de hijada’ (colic stone), which was coined around 1565, while another Spanish name is ‘piedra de los rinones’ (kidney stone), which when translated into Latin, Lapis Nephriticus, gives us the name, Nephrite. This nomenclature displays the connection the Spanish made between polished Jade drops and kidneys.
Chemical composition of Jade
Jade is composed of specific silicate minerals distributed in a network of fine granules and interwoven fibers, creating a very resistant gemstone. Jade is opaque, meaning impenetrable to light.
The major exporters of this gemstone are China and Myanmar, but it is also mined in Guatemala, Russia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The history of Jade
More than any other gemstone, Jade is implanted in the heart of Chinese culture and, by its influence, Southeast Asia. Treasured as the royal gemstone, Jade may have been mined in China as early as 6,000 B.C. Jade was called the ‘stone of heaven’ by the ancient Chinese, who associated it with immortality and the ability to bridge heaven and earth. Jade actually has two different varieties, but prior to 1863 it was a blanket term covering Jadeite (pyroxene group) and Nephrite (amphibole group). French Mineralogist Alexis Damour discovered that Chinese Jade (Nephrite) and Burmese Jade (which he called Jadeite) are different minerals, albeit with similar properties and appearance. In fact, Jadeite has a fairly short history, and was never in particularly high demand until the 19th century. The most attractive examples, pure and intense emerald green, were so sought after by the Chinese Emperors, that they were named Imperial Jade. Jadeite exists in a variety of colors: blue, brown, cream, green, gray, lavender, orange, red, violet, white, yellow and a combination of these colors, sometimes as spots. The reddish coloration of Jadeite is due to the presence of traces of iron, while its greens are created by chrome. Nephrite has a more limited color palette: brown, green, gray, yellow and white. Imperfections, such as red, yellow and brown striations, are caused by oxidation.
Properties of Jade
Delicate and soft to the touch, Jade is a perfect match for any outfit, thanks to its delicate, marvelous colors. But do not be fooled by its soft demeanor; Jade is one of the most highly resistant gemstones in the world, together with Diamond.
Care for Jade
Jade can be subjected to steam cleaning, but not ultrasound.