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    

**estate Nice Quality 18k Yellow Gold Jade Ruby Necklace 11x7mm 18.5" Long 9.7 **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade 40pts Diamond Bracelet I-j Si2 6-3/8" 15.2g**estate 14k White Gold 11x5mm Jade 16pt Diamond Ring 4.5 Grams G-h Vs2 Size 2.5**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green White Carved Jade Bracelet 7.25" 13x18mm **ming's Of Honolulu 14k Yellow Gold Jade Pearl Brooch 1x2-1/8" 5-6mm 9.5 Grams **estate 18k Yellow Gold Jade Bracelet 15.7mm Sections 6-3/8" Long 21.7 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Jade Pendant 6.6 Grams 2-1/8" 6.7mm **estate 14k Yellow Gold Beaded Green Jade Necklace 36.9 Grams 29" 8mm **estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Bangle Bracelet 50.3 Grams 2-3/16" 9.5mmVintage 18kt Gold Diamond Carved Jade Buddha Pendant JadeiteAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved 12 Mm Green Jade Jadeite Necklace!Vintage Chinese Export Gold Gilt Silver Filigree & Carved Jade Pin Brooch | G TEstate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Lavender Jade, Amethyst, Rhodolite Garnet Ring**estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Ring 19.5x26mm 13.7 Grams Size 7 **estate 14k Yellow Gold High Quality Carved Jade Pendant 33.8 Grams 2.5" **estate Carved Orange Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 52.9 Grams 2.25" **estate 18k Yellow Gold Jade Dangle Drop Earrings 7mm X 1.5" 6.5 Grams Antique Vintage Art Deco 14k Gold Chinese Jade Jadeite Bangle Estate Bracelet!Gorgeous Vintage Chinese Gilt Silver Filigree Enamel & Jade Bracelet | Rs AxVintage 14k Yellow Gold Jade Bangle Bracelet No ReserveArt Deco Antique 14k Gold Jade Bezel Set Watch Chain Necklace 66" Long **estate 14k Yellow Gold Multi Colored Jade Pendant 31.0 Grams 2" Round14ct/ 14k Gold Purple Jade Ring, 585**ming's Of Honolulu 14k Yellow Gold Jade Pearl Brooch Pendant 22.0 Grams 1.75"Art Nouveau 14k Solid Gold Green Jadeite Jade Lavalliere Link Chain Necklace **estate 14k Yellow Gold Beaded Jade Necklace Carved Pendant 103.6 Grams 22.5"**estate 14k Yellow Gold Carved Flower Jade Ring 14.7x18.6mm 8.3 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Ring 19x13.5mm 12.7 Grams Size 7.5**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green White Jade Earrings 7.2 Grams 22mm Round**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 11.5x15mm 4.0 Grams**estate Carved Green Brown Jade Fish Pendant 10.0 Grams 1x2" Antique Chinese Celadon Green Jade Carved Dragon Necklace Pendant 14k Bale Bnw Antique Chinese Export Sterling Silver Carved White & Green Jade Brooch Pin Bnw**estate 14k Yellow Gold Orange Jade Pendant 29.2 Grams 1.75" Round**estate 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Jade Pendant 22.8 Grams 1.25 X 2"**estate 14k Yellow Gold Jade Pearl Pendant 11.5x15.8mm 1.25x1-3/8"**estate 14k Yellow Gold Filled Green Carved Jade Earrings 24x12mm 5.8 GramsVintage 14k Yellow Gold Jade Bracelet No ReserveArt Deco Peking Jade BraceletGreek Key Design Jade 14k Gold Vibrant Green Vintage Jadeite Sz 7 RingAntique Chinese China Silver Filigree Brooch & Earrings JadeLovely Victorian 9ct Gold & Jade Brooch Pin Must See Antique Brooch Look Green Jade Dragon Design 18k Yellow Gold Men's Ring (sz14.5) *store LiquidationVintage 14k Yellow Gold & Jade Ring Size 5.75Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Jade Bracelet No ReserveVtg Art Deco Chinese Carved Green Jade Lavalier Necklace Sterling Silver**estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Diamond Earrings 8pts 5/8 X 1" 9.8 Grams**estate Large Carved 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Pendant 2-3/8" 49.3 Grams1930s Stork Bird Fine Jadeite Jade Antique 14k Gold Pin PendantBeautiful Nouveau Vintage 14k Yellow Tested Jade And Diamond Pin Pendant Mottled Green Jade Carved Hinged Bangle 14k Yellow Gold (small) *store Liquidati**estate 14k Yellow Gold Nice Quality Jade 16.5x13mm 19.3 Grams Size 7.75**estate 14k Yellow Gold Multi Color Jade Bracelet 7.5"x3/8" 14.6 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Carved Green Lavender Jade Pendant 10.6grams 1-3/8x3/4"**estate 14k Yellow Gold 9.6 X 12.2mm Jade Bracelet12.4 Grams 6.75" Vintage 585 14k Yellow Gold Natural Green Jade Ring Size 9 **estate Ming's Of Honolulu 2" Round Pearl Jade Brooch Pin 27.2 Grams 4-4.5mm**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Beaded Necklace 10mm 17" Long 71.5 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold Jade Ring 9x14mm Size 3-7/8 3.6 Grams Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Multi Color Jade Bracelet No Reserve