WHAT IS JADE?
The beautiful word jade comes from the Spanish piedra de la ijada meaning "the stone of the colic" because the ancient Mayans and Aztecs believed that jade could cure pain in the sides of the body. Throughout history, jade has had a very special place in Chinese culture and is called "yu" meaning "royal gem".
What we refer to as jade is actually two separate gemstones. These two gemstones are jadeite and nephrite, which up until the mid-1800s was considered to be the same stone. Today, although both stones are still considered to be jade, they are recognized as having distinct properties and uses.
From the two, jadeite is rarer, morre expensive and found in a range of beautiful colors.
Nephrite, on the other hand, is typically found in green, yellow and white, with some varieties being red. It has a waxier, oily appearance than jadeite.
Nephrite is commonly found and therefore more affordable. However, nephrite is slightly tougher than jadeite as its structure is denser.
THE SYMBOLISM AND MEANINGS OF JADE
Jade has been valued by civilizations around the globe since ancient times. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs believed that jade could alleviate pain, especially in the side of the body.
In China, jade is believed to be a symbol of prosperity, wealth, purity and beauty. The Chinese also believe that jade possesses healing qualities and can protect the wearer from illnesses by absorbing any negative energy.
Jade symbolizes love, healing and courage. It is believed to enhance wisdom and promote balance.
HOW TO EVALUATE JADE
Not all jade is created equal and so it can be difficult to find high quality jade on the market. The best jade is translucent, vibrant in color and smooth to the touch. When evaluating jade, the most important aspects to consider are color, transparency and texture.
This is the most important factor in the quality of fashioned jadeite. As per standard color nomenclature, jadeite's colors are best described by breaking them down into the three color components: hue (position on the color wheel), saturation (intensity), and tone (lightness and darkness).
For jadeite, the intensity of the green color, combined with a high degree of translucency are the key factors in judging value. Stones which are too dark in color or not so translucent are less highly valued. Color distribution must also be taken into account.
Hue: Top-quality jadeite is pure green. While its hue position is usually slightly more yellow than that of fine emerald and it never quite reaches the same intensity of color, the ideal for jadeite is a fine "emerald" green. No brown or gray modifiers should be present in the finished piece.
Saturation: This is by far the most important element of green and lavender jadeite color. The finest colors appear intense from a distance (sometimes described as "penetrating"). Side-by-side comparisons are essential to judge saturation accurately. Generally, the more saturated the hue is, the more valuable the stone will be.
Tone: The ideal tone is medium - not too light or too dark.
Distribution: Ideally, color should be completely even to the unaided eye, without spotting or veins. In lower qualities, fine root or vein-like structures that contrast with the body color of the stone may be considered attractive. However, dull veins or roots are less desirable. Any form of mottling, dark irregular specks, or blotches that detract from the overall appearance of the stone will reduce the value.
Jade is found in opaque to semi-transparent varieties. This is what gives jade its special look and distinguishes it from other green gemstones.
The most valuable type of jade is semi-transparent, giving it a slightly blurry look. When light reaches into such jade, it goes deep within the stone giving it a glowing appearance.
Completely opaque jade is not desirable, and neither is completely transparent. Jade with patchy transparency, where some parts of the stone are cloudy, is also not very desirable.
Clarity and Texture
Jadeite is smooth and soft to the touch. What contributes to its texture is the size and hardness of its crystals that make the stone. Jade is composed of minute crystals that interlock densely as the stone forms.
Jade can be found in three main crystal sizes - fine, medium and coarse. The best texture is fine-grained jade. These stones have a smooth feel and very high luster.
Jade is a versatile stone that can be cut and carved into all shapes and forms. Because of its fine-grained crystal structure it is easy to cut and does not break, crack or chip while cutting.
The best quality jade is usually cut into cabochons and used in jewelry. These cabochons are often not calibrated in order to make the most of the jade rough and gain the highest yield.
Sometimes a single piece of jade rough is used to create an entire piece of jewelry. These are called hololiths and include bangles and rings. Jade hololith jewelry is often very costly because a lot of wastage of the rough occurs during the cutting process.
A jade bangle made of a single piece of jadeite. Shop jade bangles here.
Jade is often used for ornamental carvings. The Chinese also have various popular cuts and designs for jade that hold special meaning for them.
Grade A Jadeite apple green Lady Buddha pendant in white gold. Shop jade pendants here.
Size and Weight
Because jade is a very dense gemstone, it is much heavier than most other stones. A jade stone of the same size as a diamond, for example, would be much heavier than the diamond. This is why jade (and most other colored gemstones) is measured in millimetres and not in carats.
Jade can be found in all sizes, although high quality jade is rare.
JADE PRICE AND VALUE
The price of jade has increased exponentially over the past several years. Experts attribute this giant hike in price to the economic boom in China over the past decade. With this prosperity, the demand for jade has exceeded the supply, causing prices to sky rocket. In some cases, the value of jade has surpassed that of gold.
With this being said, the price of jade depends on its quality. Jadeite is more expensive while nephrite is a more affordable choice.
When choosing the highest quality jade, a small increase in size can raise the price of the stone dramatically. However, this is not the case with nephrite.
JADE ENHANCEMENTS AND TREATMENTS
Most jade on the market undergoes many treatments to enhance its color. This can affect the stability of the stone and reduce its toughness.
When choosing jade, there are three grades to consider:
Type A or Grade A - This type of jade is natural and has had no artificial treatments. However, its luster may be enhanced by giving it a waxy coat. This does not affect the stone in any way.
Type B or Grade B - This refers to jade that may have been bleached to remove pigmentation and coated or filled. When jade is bleached, it becomes porous and easier to break. To combat that, polymer fillers are used to improve the jade's stability. However, treatments can cause the stone to be unstable and reduces its toughness. Even so, Type B jade still has its natural, true color.
Type C or Grade C - This refers to jade that has undergone many treatments such as bleaching, fracture filling and dying. Over time, the color of Type C jade can fade exposure to heat and the stone is often not stable.
When buying jade, ensure that your jeweler discloses this information to you. Needless to say, Type A jade is the most expensive and also the most durable. It is perfect for engagement rings and other high ticket pieces of jewelry.
JADE IN JEWELRY
Jade can be used to create unique designs that can be quite impossible to do with other types of gemstones. The vivid color of jade is full of vitality and bursting with personality. It energizes any wardrobe and adds a pop of color to neutrals.
Small stud earrings, dainty pendants and tasteful rings can be the perfect addition to any outfit for casual or workwear.
For a more dressed up look, jade stylish earrings and statement pendants can be stunning and eye catching. The secret is to coordinate the color with your outfit for the best look.
Double-sided carved grape shaped jadeite pendant in white gold. Shop jade pendants here.
TAKING CARE OF JADE
As we have discussed, jade is extremely tough and quite durable. However, to keep it shining and lustrous, it is important to regularly clean your jade.
Use soap and warm water with a soft brush to wash the stone. Once washed, make sure the soap is rinsed off and the stone is dried thoroughly. It is not recommended that you use ultrasonic cleaners or steamers as these can damage the gemstone.
When storing jade, wrap it in a cloth or jewelry box. This keeps it free from dust and from being scratched by other items.
Keep jade away from chemicals such as harsh detergents, bleach and cosmetics. It is always best to take off any jade jewelry when handling chemicals or engaging in outdoor/physical activities.