A symbol of all that is good and precious in some cultures, jade is different than other types of valuable gems or precious metals. It is a metamorphic rock made up of tiny interlocking mineral crystals. The term “jade” actually refers to two separate gems: nephrite and jadeite. Modern gemologists use jade to describe both.
Jadeite comes in a wide range of beautiful colors: shades of green, yellow and reddish orange in addition to white, gray, black, brown and lavender. Nephrite’s colors range from translucent to opaque and can be light to dark green, yellow, brown, black, gray or white.
Ounce for ounce, jade is more valuable than gold — and that’s before you take into account the value of the piece’s antiquity. Jade is always appreciating in value.
Jade in Chinese Culture
“Gold has a price; jade is priceless.” —Chinese proverb
Nephrite was the first jade discovered in China, and it has been a symbol of status, spirituality, health and purity in Chinese culture for 9,000 years. Today, Chinese nephrite deposits are all but depleted, so most jade traded in modern China is jadeite. In a nod to tradition, however, every winning athlete’s medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was embedded with a piece of pure nephrite jade.
Why We Love Jade
The way it interacts with light: Jadeite’s structure scatters light. If properly cut, a white piece with a small green spot will make the gem appear completely green if lit from behind.
The way it differs from other gems: Due to the way jade interacts with light, it is rarely faceted. Even semi-transparent jade is usually fashioned into cabochons, beads or other styles. It’s soft enough to carve yet durable, so the stone can be cut in unusual ways. Add this to the fact that rough jade can be quite large, and the result is often unique designs you won’t find in other jewels.
The way it rings: Nephrite rings like a bell when struck. Artisans have created chimes, xylophones and gongs from melodically resonant jade.
The Three Cs (and Two Ts) of Jade
- Color: For both jadeite and nephrite, green is the most valued color. The finest jadeite — almost transparent with a vibrant emerald-green color — is known as “imperial jade.”
- Cut: While jade is rarely faceted like other gems, plain as well as intricate jade carvings are judged by their artistry.
- Carat weight: Jadeite is generally sold by the piece rather than by weight. For top-quality imperial jadeite, slight size differences can make for large value differences.
- Transparency: Jadeite’s transparency ranges from completely opaque to semi-transparent. The best jadeite is semi-transparent.
- Texture: Jadeite has a smooth, even texture that makes people want to touch and hold the gem.
To see our collection of extraordinary jade pieces, visit Eiseman Jewels at NorthPark Center in Dallas.