Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jade - The Stone of Heaven

I have a friend who grew up in Japan and inherited the most amazing collection of Asian treasures.  The pieces range from antiques to mid-century modern and the items range from carpets, furniture, porcelains, art and jewelry.  It has been my pleasure to sell many of their beautiful items for them.  They have been going through a collection of jade and selecting pieces to sell.  I thought I would share what I have learned about this prized stone.

 Jade is the most precious of all gems to the Chinese, even more precious than gold.   No wonder it is said to be the incarnation of the cosmic principle and possess the five essential virtues of Chinese philosophy, compassion, modesty, courage, justice and wisdom.

These ornamental stones were being brought to Europe from China and Central America and were called jade. For over 7000 years jade was used to make utilitarian items and artistic creations. In the mid 1800's it was realized that the name jade was being applied to two different minerals. Both were exquisite and they were hard to distinguish from each other. The end result is that there are two different stones and they are both called jade.

Jadeite and nephrite have very different chemical compositions and are classified by gemologist as different species. They both occur in the same color and translucency range, both are very hard and they were traditionally used for the same purposes.  Even though it is common to refer to both gems as jade it is more proper to use or include the species jadeite or nephrite.

Jadeite varies from translucent to opaque and from shades of green, brown, orange, red, lavender and yellow to gray and near white. Jadeite has the full range of jade's colors.  Color is the most important factor in determining value.  The emerald green jade, called Imperial Jade, is the most valued and highly sought after by collectors.  Lavender is the second most valuable color.

Nephrite is more common and found all over the world and in greater quantities than jadeite.  The greens and grays are most common but it is sometimes found in brown, yellow and white.  The translucent white to light yellow is known in China as mutton fat jade.

1 comment: