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 opaque, 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 JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Exceptional Handmade Chinese Pearls, Jade & 18k+ Gold NecklaceVtg Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Vermeil Carved Bird Jadeite Jade BraceletNice Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Jade Drop Earrings 9.1 Grams 1-1/2"Vtg Chinese Antique Pair Jadeite Jade 14kt Gold Bangle Bracelet Ming's? 73.1gVintage 22k Gold Ring With Jade 15.55mm X 12.60mmVintage Translucent Green Jade Bangle 9 Mm With 14k Gold Clasp 44.1 Grams Antique Chinese Pale Celadon Jade Silver & Enamel Bat Pin Qing ...... N0 Reserve2 Pairs Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Coral And Jade Studs Mings 3.6 GramsAmazing 22k Bracelet Green Translucent (6) 15 Mm Jade Pcs 34.7 GramsVintage Translucent Orange/white Jade Bangle 8.6 Mm With 14k Clasp 42.2 GramsVintage Lavender Jade Bangle 10 Mm 14k Yellow Gold Multiple Color Jade ClaspVintage 14k Yellow Gold Orange And Green Jade Pendant 1-1/2"x 3/4", 16.4 GramsAntique C 1920 Deco 14k Gold Carved Jade Jadeite Chinese Export Necklace PendantVintage Chinese Cabochon Jade Jadeite & 18k Yellow Gold RingVintage Carved Green/white Jade Pendant With 14k Yellow Gold Top 7/8" By 1-1/8"Gorgeous Gia Certified Grade 'a' Jadeite Jade Ring With 1 Carat Twt DiamondsVintage Carved Green Translucent Pea Pod Jade Earrings 18k Top 2" LongVintage Platinum Ring With Two Ring Guards With Baguets Size 7 1/2Antique Chinese Carved Jade Medallion Plaque Pendant Bat CharactersGia Certified 14k White Gold Jade & Diamond Ring Natural Color Jade 2.90 CtsVintage 14k Yellow Gold, 7- 7 1/2 Mm Pearl Strand/ Jade Clasp Necklace, 30 GramsVintage Green Jade Bangle, 32.3 Grams 8.1 Mm ThickVintage 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Earring 7 By 17 Mm Clip On Earring 5.4 GramsVintage Mings Of Honolulu Yellow Jade Beaded Necklace 30" 14k Gold Clasp 7-7.5mmVintage 14k Gold White And Lavender Jade Bangle Bracelet 10mm WideRare Antique Chinese Carved Mutton Fat Jade Devils Work Dangle Earrings Gorgeous Vintage Large Sterling Silver Cultured Pearl Chinese Jade Brooch 3 1/2"Cool White Carved Jade Pendant Ocean Seen 1-1/2" By 1-1/4" By 1" Thick 14k TopVintage Mings Of Honolulu 14k Gold Jade Pendant With PearlsVintage Lavender Jade Bangle Bracelet 7mm Wide 14k Yellow Gold Clasp Vintage 14k Gold And Jade Earrings Antique Chinese Rotating Center Jade Pendant Qing Dynasty .......... N0 ReserveFinely Carved Vintage Orange Jade Pendant 14k Gold Rats And VinesVintage 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Ring 12 By 16 Mm 4.8 GramsVintage 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Bangle, 10.62 Mm, 68.2 GramsVintage 14k Gold Ring With Green Jade 19mm X 13mmVintage Translucnt Green Carved Jade Earrings 9/16" By 1-3/4" Set In 14k Gold Elegant Solid 18k Yellow Gold & 10mm Green Jade Cabochon Estate EarringsVintage 14k Gold Chinese Jade Hinged Bangle Bracelet Size 7 - No Reserve Vintage Multi-colored Green/orange Jade Bangle,8.25 Mm Thick, 36.5 GramsVintage 14k Yellow Gold Multi-colored Jade Brooch, 1 5/8" X 1 1/2", 9.2 GramsVintage Mid Century Modern 14k Gold Mens Jade Cufflinks 7.2grams No ReserveVtg Chinese Antique Estate Jadeite Jade 18kt Gold 14kt Diamond Ring Gemstone 6.5Vintage Chinese 14k Yellow Gold Carved Figural Jade & Ruby Earrings No ReserveVintage 16.92ctw Natural True Color Green Jadeite Jade Cabochon Loose Gemstone Vintage 14kt Yellow Gold Green Jade Saddele Ring, 6.6 GramsAntique 1930s Chinese Fine Jadeite Jade Signed 14k Gold Ladies Ring Size 4Vintage 18k Gold Jade PendantVintage Antique Victorian Edwardian Sterling Silver Rose Gold Jade Mans Ring NrVtg 1920's Art Deco German Signed Jade Molded Glass Marcasite Sterling BraceletAntique Perfectly Matching 714.00c Natural True Color Jadeite Jade Snuff BottlesVintage 18k Yellow Gold Green Jade Ring 20 By 7.5 Mm 4.1 GramsVintage 14k White Gold Imperial Green Jade Wedding Band Size 7Gorgeous Vintage 14k Gold Mottled Jade And .5 Carats Diamond Pendant 2 3/8 InchVintage 14k Gold And Carved Jade PendantVintage Lavender Jade Beaded Necklace 7.4-8.4 Mm 22" Long With 14k Gold ClaspVintage 1920's Exquisite Art Deco Jade Molded Glass Marcasite Sterling NecklaceVtg 51g Chunky Jade Floral Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Bracelet Pin BroochVintage 24k Gold Green Jade Pendant 1-3/8" By 3/8" 6.1 Grams 9 By 22 Mm JadeVintage Jade 'ball' Earrings Gold Filled 15.7mm