The term jade is applied to two tough compact, typically green gemstones that take a high polish.
Both minerals have been carved into jewelry, ornaments, small sculptures, and utilitarian objects from earliest recorded times.
The more highly prized of the two jadestones is jadeite; the other is nephrite.
Jadeite is a silicate of sodium and aluminium while nephrite is a silicate of calcium and magnesium.
Jadeite has hardness between 6.0 and 7.0 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness while nephrite is slightly softer between 6.0 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale .
Both jadestone types may be white or colorless, but colors such as red, green, violet, and gray may occur owing to the presence of iron, chromium, or manganese impurities, respectively.
The most highly prized variety is jadeite of an emerald-green hue and the most common color is a pale green.
The history of jade goes back several thousand years when jade was first used to make tools and weapons because of its toughness.
Both nephrite and jadeite were used from prehistoric periods for hardstone carving.
Jade (nephrite) was regarded as the most precious stone in ancient China.
The Chinese refer to jade as “yu”, which means “heavenly” or “imperial.” Therefore, it is considered to be the imperial gem in Chinese culture.
During the Stone Age of many cultures, jade was used for axe heads, knives, and other weapons.
Jade later became revered with special significance. Beautiful designs were used for carvings, decorations, ceremonies, furnishings, and jewelry for the Imperial families.
Jade’s significance to Chinese culture cannot be understated. Entire kingdoms in China have started wars over particularly precious stones.
Nephrite jade in New Zealand, known as pounamu in the Māori language, is highly valued and plays an important role in Māori culture. This jade was used to make weapons and ornaments.
All the jadeite in Mesoamerica, used by the Olmec, Maya, and all other cultures since about 3000 BC, comes from the Motagua river valley in Guatemala, and it was one of the most valuable objects in those cultures.
The English word “jade” is derived (via French l’ejade) from the Spanish piedra de ijada, meaning “stone of colic, pain in the side”, which was ultimately branched from Latin’s very own ilia (via Vulgar Latin *iliata), a word for “flank”, as jades were used to cure pains in the sides back in the days, since the Spanish acquired this kind of superstition from the Moors.
It was not until 1863 that French mineralogist, Alexis Damour, determined that what was referred to as “jade” could in fact be one of two different minerals: either nephrite or jadeite.
Today, it is estimated that Myanmar is the origin of upwards of 70% of the world’s supply of high-quality jadeite.
The largest statue of Buddha made from a single piece of jade, weighs 260.76 tonnes (574,876 lb 11 oz) and measures 7.95 m (26 ft) high, 6.88 m (22 ft 6.8 in) wide and 4.1 m (13 ft 5.4 in) deep. It is found within a temple at Jade Buddha Palace, Anshan, Liaoning province, China. The piece of jade was found in 1960 at Xiuyan county, Liaoning province. Carved in 1992 and has seven differing colors within it.
The most expensive piece of jade jewelry is a necklace with a ruby and diamond clasp by Cartier that once belonged to the American heiress Barbara Hutton. It was sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in April 2014 for $27.44 million, well above its $12.8 million estimate.
The largest display of jade sculptures was made of 740 sculptures in an event organised by Lam Chung Foon (Hong Kong) in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China on 21 August 2015.
The largest collection of jade consists 7,176 unique items and belongs to Lam Chung Foon (Hong Kong). The collection was verified in Hong Kong, China on 20 June 2015.