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Jade is one of the most timeless and culturally cherished gems. It has a rich and ancient heritage that has been upheld across East Asia, Central America, and New Zealand. There are two renowned categories of jade: the jadeite and the more common nephrite. The two types of jade can be distinguished by their color, hardness, and even by sound. The nephrite jade resonates a musical chime when struck, whereas the jadeite does not.

The nephrite jade’s color ranges from the lustrous mid to dark green or grey-green with shades of white, yellow, and red. Popularity of the nephrite jade can be traced back to the Stone Age, where it was shaped and used as weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Carvings of jade eventually flourished into an artistic tradition in China. The jadeite variety of jade, which has been long coveted in New Zealand and the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America, was not introduced to China until the 1700s. Jadeite is harder and rarer, therefore deemed more valuable than the nephrite. The prized jadeite jade comes in white, lavender, red, black, brown, and many shades of green.

Jade carvings of both nephrite and jadeite only became more popular since jadeite’s introduction in China. These carvings, whether adorned as jewelry or worshiped as ritual antiquity, are traditionally known to evoke the mystic powers of heaven and earth. They are highly regarded gems that promote luck, balance, protection, clarity of mind, and purity of spirit. When carved into symbolic shapes, jade pieces take on metaphysical properties. The popular koi fish represents longevity and wealth. Jade peaches denote immortality and serves as gourds of protection. Carvings in jade of religious figures, such as the Mercy Bodhisattva, Kwanyin, Buddha, and even the Virgin Mary, are also common. Perhaps the most popular carvings are of jade coins called “Bi”. With a hollow center, these adorned coins symbolize heaven. Today, jade gemstones are also given to celebrate the 12th Anniversary.

When choosing for quality jade, choose a piece that is cool to the touch, heavy for its size, and has a bright tinkle sound when rung against another. The gem should have translucent quality that is easily seen by shining a bright light through it. The translucency will show the pigmentation in cloud like structures that smoothly blend together. It should be bubble free and the surface feels polished and smooth. With long wear the oils from your skin will only make it more lustrous. In fact, the oils and essence of the wearer improves the jade piece’s texture and color. To maintain jade, keep it from rough wear, activity, perfumes and lotions. Clean with a damp cloth or with mild sudsy water. When not worn, store in an environment that is humid, so that the gem does not dry out and become brittle.

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