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Buyers Guide Explaining Jade Gemstones

  • By Julia Littlewood
  • Published 04/20/2012

There is a wide variety of lustrous semi-precious stones available to enhance your jewellery collection, and jade has been a favourite for centuries, particularly in ancient China.

From the different types available to top tips when shopping around, the following article will explain everything you need to know about jade gemstones.

Introducing Jade

Jade is an extremely durable and tough material (tough being the ability of a gemstone to withstand fracturing when under stress and hardness as well as the ability to resist abrasion).

This beautiful semi-precious stone has been used for centuries and was extremely popular in Asia, where it was seen as sacred. It typically symbolised the virtues of Confucius – justice, compassion, courage, wisdom and modesty.

In the earliest times, jade was used for tools, knives and weapons rather than as gemstones for adornment, however today it is mainly used to create exquisite jewellery, ornaments and sculptures.

Main Types of Jade

China is the main producer of jade, however Burma (known today as Myanmar) produces jade which is superior in quality and appearance than most other resources, since Burmese jade is harder and tends to have a higher polish.

It is widely surmised that jade is a green gemstone, but the fact is that it can be found in a variety of colours, including white, pink, yellow, blue, red, gray and black.

In terms of composition, jade can be comprised of two minerals – jadeite or nephrite – which have distinctly different crystal structures and chemical compositions but similar physical properties:

Nephrite (‘Stone of Heaven’)

Nephrite is a calcium and magnesium silicate. It is known for its toughness, alluring translucency and smooth polish. Nephrite ranges in colour from pure white to all shades of green – artificial colouring or treatment is seldom needed to enhance jade made of this composition. Nephrite was the traditional Chinese jade known as the ‘Stone of Heaven’ and has been valued by their culture for thousands of years.

Jadeite

Jadeite is a sodium aluminium silicate mineral that rates 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. It was introduced to China from Burma in the 1784. This type of jade is rarer than nephrite, making it more valuable. It comes in various tones ranging across the colour spectrum, the most popular being pink jade. It is often enhanced with colour however, so do get expert advice when investing in this type of jade. In addition, sometimes veining occurs in a jadeite stone, but this does not detract from its value.

Pink Jade

Pink jade is widely held as a symbol of healing, since it’s believed it has the ability to rid the body of toxins, balance the nervous system and encourage positivity. In some cultures, pink jade was also thought to promote love and wealth.

Imperial Jade

This is a rare, fine grained type of jade which stands out for its magnificent translucence and rich green colour. Jewellery created with Imperial Jade is often more expensive than the finest quality diamonds.

How Jade is Cut

Nephrite jade in particular is an extremely tough material to work with, since it is fibrous in structure, meaning similar to a handful of human hair. Due to this, it cannot be cut with chisels – it has to be ground using the hardest and sharpest of abrasives, such as diamonds. Saw blades are imbedded with diamonds in a soft matrix, so that the soft matrix is able to slowly wear away to expose the diamond. The hardness of the diamond particles being dragged over the softer jade is what accomplishes the cutting (or more aptly grounding) process. Thereafter, the jade is then sanded and polished into a high lustre for the final product.

Top Buyers Tips When Choosing Jade

Keep the following advice in mind when shopping around for jade jewellery:

· Colour, transparency, intensity and texture are the main qualities that are important when choosing your jade – this will determine its value.

· White jade can be dyed with various colours, but beware of dealers who sell this as Imperial Jade at a higher price.

· Dyes, heat treatment and bleaches are often used to enhance the colour of jadeite and nephrite – a reliable dealer has an obligation to reveal any treatment that has been used.

· Be aware that other materials such as green quartz, grossular garnet, jasper, amazonite, and serpentine to name but a few are often used to imitate jade and have a very similar appearance to jade which is difficult to distinguish.

· Imitation colours tend to permeate evenly through the stone – you can notice this upon careful examination.

Conclusion

Because of its durability and rich colour, jade has been highly popular as a semi-precious gemstone for centuries. It continues to be used in a wide variety of jewellery items, such as rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. In addition, jade makes for a wonderful material in art objects.

About the Author : Julia Littlewood is a stylist and jewellery designer.

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