Jade has been mined around the world for more than 2,000 years, but it wasn’t until 1863 that what was thought of as “jade” was revealed to be two distinct minerals—jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite, from sodium aluminum silicate, is the rarer of the two, and is therefore considered precious. Nephrite, from calcium magnesium iron silicate, is comparatively common, but has long been valued for its strength and hardness.

Most people think of the jade used in fine jewelry as a green gemstone, but jadeite is white in its pure form and actually appears in a wide range of colors, including lilac/lavender, pink, brown, red, blue, orange, yellow, and black. Jadeite can range from opaque to translucent or near-transparent, and has a greasy to pearly luster. The stone is often mottled in appearance, and has minuscule dimples when polished.

The most prized jadeite, particularly in China, is known as imperial jade. It is a deep emerald or apple green due to chromium oxide in the mineral, sometimes with tiny black inclusions. But this imperial green jadeite has only been available in China since the 1700s, when it was first imported from Burma (present-day Myanmar). Before that, nephrite was the celebrated stone used in ancient Chinese religious rituals for thousands of years.

Nephrite ranges in color from black-looking dark green to cream (thanks to the presence of magnesium) and tends to be more spinach or sage in tone, rather than emerald green. It may be homogeneous in color, blotchy, or banded. Its interlocking aggregates of fibrous amphibole crystals make nephrite tougher than steel, which is why it was used in many early weapons such as arrowheads and axes.

With its strength and luster, nephrite jade was considered a magical stone in China. It was thought to link the physical and spiritual realms, yin and yang, day and night, and good and evil. It was also used to denote high rank and authority in Chinese society. Today, nephrite is mined in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Siberia, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States, and Zimbabwe.

While some jadeite can be found in Japan and the United States, the primary source is still Burma. Historically, Guatemala was the source of jadeite for Central America, where it was also considered a sacred stone. Even the Spanish conquistadors called it “loin stone” or “kidney stone,” believing it could heal kidney and hip pains.

In jewelry, jadeite and nephrite are typically carved and/or polished and fashioned into beads, cabochons, mosaics, figurines, and cameos. These stones are used in earrings, necklaces, amulets, and bracelets...

Jade jewelry came into fashion in the Western world during the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s, when Chinoiserie (a fusion of European and Eastern styles) was, once again, all the rage with the women of high society. Countess Mona Bismarck had a 1930s jade-and-diamond bracelet featuring five rows of jade beads connected by diamond rondelles. The large diamond clasp is set with jade carved in the form of a small spider sitting on a finger-citron flower, also called Buddha’s hand.

In the 1920s, the celebrated singer Ganna Walska had two chimera-themed bangles representing Makara, the mythical Indian sea-serpent. Made by Van Cleef & Arpels, the bangle featured carved coral chimera heads decorated with sapphires and diamonds holding jade beads in their mouths.

It is believed that Barbara Hutton received her 1930 Cartier necklace featuring smooth, round jade beads as a gift from her father. In 1934, Cartier fashioned her a jade, ruby, and diamond ring to match the necklace.

Much jadeite today is impregnated with wax or plastic resins to imitate the luster and color of imperial jade; sometimes these dyes can fade. Other times stones like chalcedony are dyed to look like jadeite. Most of cheapest “jade” on the market is made of glass or plastic. Treated and dyed jade should always be less expensive than natural jade, while glass fakes can often be identified by the air bubbles below their surfaces.

At times, other stones have been confused with jade, leading to many misnomers including Korea jade (bowenite or serpentine), Colorado jade (amazonite), Indian jade (aventurine), Australian jade (chrysoprase), Transvaal jade (hydrogrossular garnet), and Honan jade (soapstone). Unlike true jade, serpentine and soapstone are easy to scratch.

Thanks to all the dyed and low-quality nephrite jewelry on the market, nephrite has been devalued as a gemstone. Jadeite, though, is still sought-after, particularly when it is imperial green or lavender. The more transparent, colorful, and evenly colored the jadeite is, the higher its value.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

A Beautiful Art Deco Platinum, Diamond & Antique Chinese Jadeite Jade Pendant**estate Jade Link Necklace Sterling Silver 22" Long 1/3 X 2/3" 64.3 Grams**estate 18k Yellow Gold Jade Dangle Drop Earrings 7mm X 1.5" 6.5 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 1.10" X 3/4" 2.3 Grams** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Jade Ring 3.2 Grams 10.5x13.6mm Size 7**antique 22k Yellow Gold Green Heart Jade Pendant 1.25 X 0.80" 5.9 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Ring 4.1 Grams 13x9.10mm Size 5.75 Vintage 14k Gold Unique Elegant 7mm Pearl & Green Jade Cocktail Ring Size 7.25Antique Vintage Art Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Jade Jadeite Lavaliere Necklace**antique 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Jade Pendant 2.10" 25.6 Grams**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 2" X 6.4mm 6.1 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green White Jade Pendant 6.3 Grams 1x1.5" **antique Mutton Fat Carved Jade Pendant 1.80" X 2.40" 6.60mm Thick ** 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Jade Pendant 14.5 Grams 1"-1.5" Outstanding Victorian Enameled 14k Gold Choker Necklace W/jade Eggplant PendantAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Apple Green Jade Jadeite Estate Ring! S 7Vintage 14k Gold 8.3mm Diameter Green Apple Jade Bead Strand Necklace**estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Diamond Earrings 8pts 5/8 X 1" 9.8 GramsFine Antique 15ct / 15k 625 Gold And Carved Jade Oriental Pendant **estate 14k Yellow Gold Orange Jade Bracelet 6.5" 7mm Thick 23.2 Grams**estate Nice Quality 14k Yellow Gold Jade Earrings 6.1 Grams 2/3" RoundGump's Jadeite Jade Carved Dragon Ball Diamond Pendant 18k Gold**estate Orange Jade Bangle Bracelet 24.5 Grams 7.4mm Thick 1.90" Inside CircVintage 14k Gold And Jade Bangle Bracelet W/ Safety Chain Marked**antique Sterling Silver Carved Green White Jade Pendant 1.30x1.80" 6mm Thick Antique Chinese Import Carved Jade Jadeite Silver Brooch China14k Yellow Gold 8ctw Cabochon Jade Diamond Stud Earrings 3.4gr Beautiful 14ktSuperb Beth Orduna Sterling Silver Natural Emerald W/ Pearl Modernist Necklace** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 42.6 Grams 9.5mm Fits 6.75"**estate14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Lavender Jade Pendant 17.5 Grams 1.75x1" **estate 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Jade Buddha Pendant 1.30x1.40" 10.0 Grams ** Estate Nice Quality 14k Yellow Gold Orange Jade Bangle Bracelet 8mm 6.75" **estate Nice Quality 14k Yellow Gold Jade Earrings 11.3mm 1/2x1" 5.6 Grams A Small And Pretty Vintage 9 Carat Gold And Jade Ring, U.k. Size JAntique Coral & Green Jade Figural Lobster Pin Or Brooch 14k Yellow Gold Mtd NrVintage Soviet Era Russian .583 Fine 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Ring Size 8.5 NrVintage 14k Gold Jade Cluster 1950s Large Filigree Earrings**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 4.2 Grams 9.3mm Jade Apple Green Cabochon Diamond 18k Yellow Gold Ring (sz 7) *store Liquidation**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Beaded Necklace 20" 9.5mm 71.2 Grams ** 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade With Anchor Pendant 10.9 Grams 1.25" Round Art Deco Peking Jade, French Jet And Silver Necklace Pale Jade With Amber Splash 14k Yellow Gold Hinged Bangle Antique Chinese Carved Jade Silver Enamelled Ring Butterflies**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Band 2.8mm 1.6 Grams Size 3.75**estate Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 36.6 Grams 2.15" Inside Measurement 8.6mmLovely! Antique Silver & Gold Guild Floral Carved Jade Double Pendants Necklace!24k Gold Fine Jadeite Jade Spectacular Signed Chinese Dragon Serpent Antique Pin**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green White Jade Pendant 6.3 Grams 1x1.5" ** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Jade Ring 14x20mm 6.2 Grams Size 5.75The Most Impressive Victorian Memento Mori Skulls 18k Gold,diamonds&jade RingFine Pair Heavy 14ct/14k/14carat/585 Gold Pink Quartz And Jade Buddah Pendants**estate 14k Yellow Gold 7.4mm Jade Earrings 2.8 Grams Screw On **antique 14k Yellow Gold Carved Lilly Flower Jade Pendant 2.90" X 0.90" 27.3 G** Estate Nice Quality Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 47.7 Grams 9.5mm Thick 6.75"**estate 14k Yellow Gold Multi Colored Jade Bracelet 9.7 Grams 4-5mm 7" **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 9.2 Grams 1-1/8x1.75" ** Estate Green Bangle Bracelet 12mm Thick 2.35" Across, 7" Vintage Necklace Pendant Solid 14k Yellow Gold Jade Stone Charm Not Scrap Lot**antique 18k Yellow Gold Brown Green Carved Jade Pendant 2.20" 32.7 Grams