Jade jewelry has a rich and interesting history. For as far back as can be traced, jade was considered a "gemstone from heaven". To the Chinese, it was more precious than silver or gold. For more than 6000 years, the Chinese carved jade figures, jewelry, and other items. In many Chinese households, you'll find a flat, circular disc called a pi. The pi is worn as a necklace and represents earth and heaven. To the Mayans and other South American cultures, it was considered a stone that could heal and protect. The gem comes in many different shades of green and occasionally in white, gray, black, yellow, orange, and even violet.
Nephrite and Jadeite
Jade comes from two different gemstones, nephrite and jadeite. These two gems are similar in appearance, but nephrite is more common. Nephrite is found in Russia, New Zealand, China, the Swiss Alps and Guatemala. This stone comes in medium to dark green, gray, white, yellow and red. Jadeite is found in Burma, China, Russia, California and Guatemala. In contrast, jadeite comes in green, white, pink, red, brown, black and violet. Both gems are resilient and sturdy.
Raw jade is sold by the piece rather than the carat. Jade is very difficult to carve because it is such a hard gem. This gemstone is sold in raw form and must be cut in processing centers with diamond powder and carborundum. Buyers often are unsure of the quality of the jade until they are able to slice it and find the color, translucency, and fineness. Jade is made into belt buckles, hair clips, vases, cups, animal figures, and thin slivers are often used for jade jewelry.
There are four areas to look at when deciding if a piece of jewelry is made with good quality jade. Such as:
The color can vary widely but should be even and not splotchy. The texture of jade jewelry can be very fine or very coarse. The best jewelry will be smooth and fine. Translucency can be clear or milky. The best look for jade jewelry is similar to thick syrup. Finally, the cut of the gemstone should be smooth.
There are three types of jade:
Natural jade which has not been processed except for a bath and waxing with beeswax. The color of the gemstone remains completely natural and is called "true color".
Type B jade has been treated with acid to increase transparency. By using chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, strange colorations or imperfections can be removed and the gemstone made to look clear and greener.
Type C goes through the chemical process that Type B experiences but also is dyed to augment the green color even further.
All three types are still jade, but Type B and Type C have been treated to enhance the color. Type A jade is worth much more than the other two types. These three types are used internationally by those in the jade business to classify and price various pieces of jade jewelry.
Buying Jade Jewelry
There are a few things to keep in mind when buying jade jewelry, such as:
- Reliable dealers will offer a certificate or guarantee for Type A jade
- Jade jewelry is an investment since the demand for this gemstone has continued to rise while its availability has continued to decrease
- Remember that jadeite is rarer and more precious
- Lavender-colored jade is the rarest color of the gemstone
- Avoid using any chemical cleaners on your semiprecious stones; you can clean by wiping with a soft cloth
Ready to buy? Here are a few websites that offer jade jewelry: