What we commonly refer to as Jade is in actual fact two slightly different minerals, known as Jadeite and Nephrite. Both have been used for centuries to produce decorative carvings which are particularly prevalent in China to this day; however the practice is said to date back over 2000 years and has produced some truly magnificent results.
Both Jadeite and Nephrite are forms of hydrous silicate minerals which contain varying amounts of sodium, magnesium, aluminium, calcium and iron, otherwise known as amphibole crystals. These fibrous crystals have an immensely strong interlocking structure which makes Jade, in particular Nephrite, tougher than steel and infinitely suitable for carving. The more common of the two minerals is Nephrite, and this tends to occur in various shades of green ranging from very deep, if the stone is rich in iron, to pale and milky which contains more magnesium. Jadeite on the other hand can form in a range of colours including green, lilac, white, yellow, brown, red, blue, orange and even black, but the most valued hue is a deep and rich green known as Imperial Jade, which will often have a scattering of black inclusions.
Dagger with Jade Hilt (image source: Wikipedia)
Traditionally Jade was used as a material to make weapons due to its supreme strength and was known as the ‘axe stone’ or simply ‘greenstone’. For example, Meres were a traditional Maori weapon made from Jade, and used in a similar way to a club. Although very basic in design, Meres were highly revered by Maori tribesman who passed them down through generations attaching great spirituality to each individual weapon. By complete contrast are the elaborate ceremonial examples of Jade which are found in ancient and modern Chinese swords, which are highly decorative and intended more for display and status than actual combat.
Today we recognise Jade as a material best suited for carved ornaments as well as beads and cameos which are its most common application for jewellery purposes. Although inherently strong, jade is unsuitable for faceting measuring only 6.5-7 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, as well as displaying a greasy to pearly lustre meaning that little light is reflected through the stone. Instead, colour and surface finish are its best attributes which is why much commercially available Jade is bleached, to lighten and remove any brown patches thus making it more desirable.
Although Jade isn’t a stone you will always find in fine jewellery collections in the UK, it’s strong association with good luck and positivity in Chinese culture mean that it is universally popular across the globe, and will always have a huge customer base in the Far East. Interestingly, Tiffany have one of the most comprehensive ranges of fine Jade jewellery in the UK at the moment comprising of both green and black jade set simply into necklaces and rings. Designed by Elsa Peretti, this modern and very Western use of Jade represents a different approach to many of the imported goods available online, and shows just how successful it can be in more contemporary and sophisticated designs.
This traditional Chinese gemstone is ideal for adding a touch of good luck, so is perfect for including in a variety of jewellery designs. Why not explore Cooksongold’s range of Jade Semi Precious Beads and Gemstones now and add one to your next piece.