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    

Vintage Estate Chinese Solid 14k Gold Celadon Jadeite Jade Bangle BraceletFine Art Deco Jade And Diamond Gold RingVintage Chinese Export 14k Gold Apple Green Jade Jadeite Carved Pendant Nr RbbArt Deco Gold On Silver Genuine Green Carved Jade Drop Screwback EarringsAntique Chinese Gilt Export Silver Carved Jade Amethyst Brooch Pin 2 5/8" ChinaLot Of (2) Vintage 1970's 14k Gold Carved Lavender & Green Jade PendantsVintage Jadeite Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k GoldVintage Green Cared Jade Pendant With 14k Gold BaleVintage 1960's 14k Yellow Gold Golden Jadeite Jade Bead Necklace - 19.25" LengthVintage 14k Yellow Gold Translucent Green Jade Bangle 8.0 Mm Thick 36.8 GramsLight Green Jade Bangle With 14k GoldAntique Art Deco Diamond Jade 14k White & Yellow Gold Ring Size 10Vintage High Art Deco Czech Faux Jade Green & Lapis Blue Art Glass Bead NecklaceFine Large & Heavy 18k Gold Jade BraceletAntique Chinese Carved Gilded Bronze Buckle Jade, Natural Pearls & Pink GemstoneMing's Hawaii 14k Vintage 1960's Plum Blossom Black Jade Bead Necklace - 37" Vintage Imperial Green Jade Pendant With 14k Gold BaleAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Jadeite Jade Dragon BraceletVintage Jomaz Joseph Mazer Gold Plate Rhinestone Jade Art Glass Buddha BroochAn Antique Chinese Natural Red Coral Jade Jadeite Necklace With Hand Carved Man Vtg 49g Bold 1940's Jade Leaf Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage 14k Gold Ring With JadeVintage Large Lavender Jade Pendant With 14 K GoldVintage Estate 14 K / 585 Yellow Gold Green Jade Saddle Ring 7 Gram Size 7Antique Chinese Silver Export Carved Pierced Jade Jadeite Brooch Must See 16.4gKupittaan Kulta Finland Vintage Green Jade Sterling Silver Pendant Necklace Gia Certified Vintage 14k Gold Beautiful Jade Jadeite Filigree Bird PendantGorgeous Gia Certified Grade 'a' Jadeite Jade Ring With 1 Carat Twt DiamondsExquisite Big Vtg Chinese Hand Carved Pierced Red Jade 14k Gold Pendant! Vi513Vintage 1970's 14k Gold Chinese Character Brownish Mutton Fat Jadeite PendantCertified Grade "a" Jade Carved White Natural Nephrite Jade Pendant - Very Old!!Certified Grade "a" Jade Pale Green Nephrite Jade BangleAntique Chinese 14k Yellow Gold & Green Imperial Jadeite Jade BraceletVintage 14k Yellow Gold Abstract 0.18ct Diamond 13mm X 7.3mm Jade Cocktail RingRare Vintage Signed Hattie Carnegie Pin/brooch Coral Jade Color Antelope /no ResLight Green And Lavender Jade Bangle With 14 K GoldVintage Green Jade Bangle 7.7 Mm Thick 32.7 GramsAntique Sterling Silver, Marcasite & Cabachon Jade Brooch Pin, No ReserveVintage Translucent Green/orange Jade Bangle 9.5 Mm 14k Gold 58.2 GramsStunning Pair Of Large Onyx & Jade Silver & Gold Art Deco Design Drop EarringsAntique Chinese Carved Apple Green Jadeite Jade Silver Ring Marked Silver ChinaVintage 18k White Gold With Imperial Jade Brooch Jade PiecesA Lovely Pair Of Vintage 9ct Gold Jade EarringsAntique Victorian 18k Gold Translucent Nephrite Jade Ring Large Cab. 17mm X 11mmVintage Jadeite Jade With 14 K Gold Pendant$2,100! Antique Victorian 14k Yellow Gold Natural 6ct Oval Cut Jade Ring 5.3gVintage Chinese 22k Yellow Gold Green Jadeite Jade 18.5 X 12.0 Mm Cabochon RingAntique Chinese Jade PendantEstate Green Jade 14k Yellow Gold Large Oval Pendant 21.7 Grams NrLarge Vintage Jadeite Jade Pendant With 18k Gold BaleVintage Large White Jade Pendant With 14k Gold Carving Of Gourd And VinesVintage 1970's 14k Black Mottled Jadeite Jade Bead & Gold Bead Necklace - 16"Vintage Vermeil Jade Brooch With CloisonnetteElegant Solid 14k Yellow Gold, 3.33 Ct Green Jade & .24 Cttw Diamond Estate RingVintage 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Earrings 9.6 By 7.7 Mm Vintage 1970's 14k Yellow Gold Carved Dark Brownish Flower Disc PendantVintage Chinese 14k Rose Gold Green Jade Solitaire Ring Sz. 8Gorgeous Vintage Jadeite Jade Butterfly Pendant With 14k GoldVintage 14k Gold And Blister Pearl Pendant With 3 DiamondsVintage Green Carved Jade Pendant With 14 K Gold Bale 1-5/8 "