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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

**estate 14k Yellow Gold Carved Jade Pendant 1.5x0.75" 10.5 GramsVintage 22k Gold 1ct Jade Cocktail Ring - 7 Grams**estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Ring 7.2 Grams 15x20mm Size 9 Gorgeous! Huge Vtg Swoboda Carved Jade Angel Skin Coral Brooch Set! Tu72Estate 14k Gold Multi Color Jade Dangle Chain Necklace,17"**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Band 4.2 Grams 7mm Wide Size 7 Jade Green Cabochon 18k Yellow Gold Bracelet *store Liquidation!* **estate 14k Yellow Gold Greek Jade Earrings, Drop Screw On, 4.8 Grams 1.75"Vintage Early Chinese Jade Export Brooch EnamelSolid 14k Yellow Gold & Oval Carved Apple Jade Floral Motif Free Form PendantFine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold Tigers Eye And Jade Swivel Watch Fob Superb, Antique, Chinese Sterling Silver Earrings With Natural Jade GemsLong, Antique, Chinese 9 Ct Gold Earrings With Natural Jade GemsBeautiful And Fine Vintage Gilt Sterling Silver Pearl & Jade Link Bracelet** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Cocktail Ring Size 7-7/8 6.3 Grams Vintage Jewellery Delightful Real Jade Pendant And Necklace ChainJade Green 14k Yellow Gold Hinged Bangle *store Liquidation!* Vintage 1960's Asian Green Jade Lucite Floral Panel Pendant Glass Link NecklaceElegant, Art Deco, Chinese Sterling Silver Bomb Earrings With Natural JadeVintage 14k Gold French Wire Jade And Pearl EarringsSuperb Finest Vintage 14ct Gold Carved Jadeite Jade Rose EarringsVintage 23k Gold Genuine Jade Ruby Long Lavalier Filigree Pendant No ReserveVintage 18k Gold Plated Carved Bird Jade Bracelet Bars & Balls Chain Links Vintage Chinese Gold Tone & Enamel Bat & 2 Jade ? Ring Pendant Htf Vtg Jomaz Signed Peking Jade Glass Gold Tone Butterfly Brooch Very Minty!!! Vintage Judith Ripka Sterling Silver Ring With Jade StoneSterling Silver Vintage 925 Open Carved Band Jade Ring Sz 7 (7.1g) - 550603An Exceptional Custom Made Vintage Sterling Silver Pink Jade Long NecklaceFine Vintage Chinese Jade And 14kt Gold Pendant**estate 8 Orange Loose Jade Droplet Stones With Hole 19.5x17.3mm 16.1 Grams1 5/8" Long Estate Chinese 14k Gold Celadon Jade Fu Good Fortune Luck Earrings Vintage Bracelet Tennis Sterling Silver 925 Scarab Beetle Jasper Jade ChainHuge Vintage Sterling Agate, Jade Or Jadeite Necklace 6.4 Ounces! HallmarkedVintage Brooch, Signed...benedikt...gold Tone & Carved Jade ? Antique Old Chinese Nephrite White Jade Bracelet Bangle Flower Carve Open ReliefGrandmas Estate Beautiful Oriental Amethyst Jade Chunky Stone NecklaceRare Vintage Sterling Silver 925 Round Light Green Jade Hinged Bangle BraceletMagnificent 14k Gold Prong Set Jade Ring Just Out Of An Atlanta EstateVintage 14k Gold Green Jade Jadite Gemstone Ring Ornate Open Filigree Size 5 1/414k 10k Gold .925 Sterling Gf Jade Jewelry LotVintage Large Sterling Silver Spinach Jade Ring - Size 8 1/2Vintage Sterlingsilver With Green Jade Pierced EarringsSterling Silver Vintage 925 Shiny Onyx & Jade Ring Sz 7 (6.3g) - 550053Vintage Sterling Silver 925 Green Jade Pinky Ladies RingVintage Art Deco Xylonite 'jade' & Rolled Gold Hexagonal CufflinksSilver Jade Bag Necklace StunningVintage Miriam Haskell Multi Strand Jade Brass NecklaceVtg 12k Gf Jade Pearl Leaf & 2" Dangle Jade Earrings Sorrento Screwback -estate Vintage Cloisonne & Craved Jade Handknotted Approx 26" NecklaceVintage Rlm Studio Robert Lee Morris Sterling Silver And Jade Ring Vintage Nephrite Jade 10 Kt Gold Pendant With 15 Pear Shaped Stones ElaborateVintage Tear Drop Jade Earrings-14k Yellow Gold-pierced Ears (c19)Vintage 14k Solid Yellow Gold 5mm Jade Sphere 1 1/8" Pierced Dangle EarringsVintage 14k Yellow Gold Jade Hoop Pierced EarringsVintage Yellow Jade Cabochon Citrine Halo Sterling Silver Earrings Vintage 34" Czech Jade Multi-color Square Block NecklaceVintage Sterling Silver And Lavender Jade Ring - Size 10Vintage Ussr Russian Sterling Silver 100% Natural Nephrite Jade Woman Ring 8.25Nice Van Dell Jade Necklace & Bracelet SetFinest Vintage Antique Deep Green Jadeite Jade We’ve Ever Had 18k Gold Pin