What is Jade?
Jade is a translucent stone which is usually a rich green colour, but can also come in other colours such as white and blue. In 1863, a French geologist, Alexi Damour, discovered that the stone we call Jade is actually two different minerals called Jadeite and Nephrite. They are both members of the silicate family of stones and are both very similar in look and qualities, so are both considered to be Jade. Both types of jade are durable and hard making them suitable for carving ornaments and, in ancient times, tools and knives. Jadeite rates 6 – 7 on the MOHs hardness scale, while Nephrite is slightly softer with a rating of 6 – 6.5, making it slightly easier to carve.
Jade is considered by some to be the birthstone for the month of August
Where does Jade come from?
Both Jadeite and Nephrite can be found all over the World, hence its importance in so many different cultures. One of the biggest sources of Jadeite today is Myanmar (Burmah) which currently produces over 70% of the Worlds supply. In the Americas, the Pre-Colombian civilizations prized Jade, but the only source was the Motagu River Valley which is why cultures such as the Olmec and Aztecs valued jade more than gold.
Where did the name “Jade” come from?
For a long time Jade has been believed to be beneficial for the working of the both the loins and the kidneys. The name derives from the French, “l’ejade” which loosely means “the kidney area”. It also stems from the Spanish, “peidra de ijada” meaning “loin stone”
A long history!
The human love affair with Jade has been a very long one. There is strong archeological evidence that it was being mined in China in the Neolithic, as early as 6000bc, to be turned into beads and ornamental objects.
In China, Jade has been valued as a stone which prolongs life and which can prevent decomposition. The earliest Emperors had burial suits made entirely of Jade in the belief that it would preserve the body after death so that it can still be useful in the afterlife. Those lower down the social ladder would still be buried with a jade object in their mouths to ensure their healthy existence in the hereafter. Even today, newborn children in China are often given the gift of Jade to bring them luck, good fortune and prosperity on their life journey and it is still used in traditional Chinese medicine to prolong a healthy life.
The Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) also believed that Jade was a special and magical stone. Each family would posess a sacred and magical pendant called a Hei Tiki. This would be carved out of Nephrite Jade by a holy person under the guidance of the family ancestors. Through this precious heirloom, the ancestors could guide a family or clan and keep them safe. When a family head died, the Hei Tiki would be buried with them for a time, but would be retrieved at a later time by family members. If a family died out for good, the Hei Tiki would be buried with the last family member permanently.
Jade was also valued by many Mesoamerican cultures for its beauty and many uses. It was highly sought after by the Olmecs, the Maya and among the Aztecs its value was considered to be higher than that of gold!
The musical stone.
There is another strange quality of Jade that was much admired by the Chinese. Due to its make-up, finely cut jade can ring and produce a clear musical note. For this reason, it has been made into chimes, gongs and musical instruments.
A stone of great value.
We have already seen that Jade has been valued more highly than gold by some cultures throughout history, and this continues to be the case. Queen Jetsum of Bhutan is in possession of a beautiful tiara made of fine Jade.
The most expensive piece of Jade jewelery in modern times is the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace which was originally owned by Barbara Hutton, an heiress to the Woolworth’s fortune. When it came on the market, ot was purchased by the jewellers, Cartier for $27.4 million.
Jade is thought by many to have healing and positive qualities.
One of these beliefs is that it is a calming stone which can be used to energise the wearer. It is also believed by some to be beneficial for the heart, liver kidneys and for balancing the nervous system.
Jade is often called “The Traveller’s Stone” as it is believed to provide protection to travellers – especially those travelling alone.
Why I love Jade.
I love Jade and use it extensively in my earrings. I find the green colour of the stones I use to be rich and luxurious. Its shine and slight translucency make it perfect for making jewellery. I also love to combine Jade with pearls.