The name jade comes from the Spanish expression piedra de ijada—literally “stone of the pain in the side.”
Jade is an ornamental green rock. The term jade is applied to two different metamorphic rocks that are composed of different silicate minerals:
Jade has been cherished for thousands of years. It’s considered pure and enduring enough to inspire the wearer’s highest spiritual aspirations, yet sensuous and luxurious enough to satisfy down-to-earth cravings.
Nephrite jade has its cultural roots in the smoke-dimmed caves and huts that sheltered prehistoric humans. In China, Europe, and elsewhere around the world, Stone Age workers shaped this toughest of minerals into weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Their carvings invoked the powers of heaven and earth and mystic forces of life and death. Nephrite carvings have been popular in China for centuries.
The ancient relationship between this gemstone and humanity persisted into modern times among native societies in New Zealand and parts of North America. In China it evolved into an artistic tradition that has flourished for more than 3,000 years.
In Central America, the Mayans and the Aztecs prized jadeite jade. They used it for medicinal purposes as well as for jewelry, ornaments, and religious artifacts. Early Spanish explorers named it after they saw natives holding pieces of the stone to their sides to cure or relieve various aches and pains. Jadeite also symbolizes prosperity, success, and good luck.
In China jadeite reached its peak as an important artistic medium. The first jadeite reached China from Burma in the late 1700s, and late eighteenth and early nineteenth century carvers created masterpieces that are still unsurpassed in concept, design, and technical execution.
Jade lustre is vitreous. When polished it appears vitreous to oily. Jadeite is said to have a more vitreous lustre than nephrite which has a more resinous (oily) lustre.
Gem and mineral hardness is measured on the Mohs scale.
Jadeite is 6.5 to 7 and nephrite is 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, so some care should be taken to avoid scratches. However, both of these gemstones have exceptional toughness and are very resistant to breaking or chipping.
The Chinese associate jade with clarity of mind and purity of spirit. Some of the ancient symbolic motifs still used in modern jade carvings (both nephrite and jadeite) include:
Jade is the official gem for the 12th anniversary.
Heat from a jeweler’s torch can harm jade. Jade is stable to light, and it can be affected by warm acids.
Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports.
Store jade away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.
The best method to clean jade is by applying a mixture of mild liquid soap and warm water. Rinse immediately with clean warm water and dry with a lint-free cloth for nice results.
Do not use common jewelry cleaner, since these formulas may cause irreversible damage also on the setting if not used correctly.
Ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners are safe for untreated jade. But jade might be treated by dyeing, bleaching and impregnation, coatings, or heat treatment, so warm, soapy water is always a safe choice.
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