"Jade is the image of goodness, because it is soft to the touch and unctuous; of prudence, because its veins are fine, compact and it is solid..."
(551-479 BC)

Confucius adds that jade is a symbol of sincerity because its brilliance is not veiled by its defects nor its defects by its brilliance.
Jade is, in any case, one of the oldest precious stones known to man. We find cut objects (arrowheads, objects of worship or adornment) on many prehistoric sites in Asia.


The main deposits of jade are in China, Burma (Myanmar), New Zealand, Russia, Guatemala and the Swiss Alps.
Its name comes from the Spanish "piedra de ijada", stone of the kidney because the Amerindians used it to look after the kidneys. Because of this beneficial effect (?) on the kidneys, the stone was also called "lapis nephreticus", which gave the term nephrite.
It is in China that jade has provided the material for the most beautiful ornaments and art objects, a preciousness recognized since the Neolithic period and which places it at the top of all precious materials, well above gold.
In China, jade is called Yù "玉", which also means precious.

Carving representing a bird, Neolithic period, it is one of the oldest jade sculptures in the world.
(Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco).

Throughout the cultural history of the Chinese empire, jade has had a special place, comparable to that of gold and diamonds in the Western world.
Not only was jade used for the most precious religious or decorative objects, but it was also used in the funerary furniture of the tombs of the imperial family. Even today, this gem is a symbol of beauty, righteousness and preciousness. It also represents the Confucian virtues of wisdom, justice, compassion, courage, humility and even femininity.

In Central America, in pre-Columbian times, the Mayans, Olmecs and Aztecs also held jade in higher regard than gold.

The Maoris of New Zealand have been carving weapons and instruments of worship from local jade since time immemorial, a tradition that continues today.

What is jade?

The jade is plural because this name covers two minerals close by the aspect but however distant from the mineralogical point of view. Jadeite and nephrite. It is only at the beginning of the 19th century that mineralogists and gemmologists were able to differentiate them in spite of their similarity in terms of hardness and physical properties.
Jadeite and nephrite jade have the same strength and consist of a dense aggregate of granular material. However, they differ in their chemical composition and in their colors.
Nephrite is a magnesium-calcium silicate, its refractive index is 1.62 and its polish is slightly less fine than that of jadeite. Its density is also lower. Its color goes from the average green to the green spinach and can take yellowish white colors to ochre.

Nephrite jade discs

2 discs of nephrite jade (personal collection)

Jadeite is a silicate of alumina and sodium, its refractive index is 1.66, its polish is very fine and brilliant. Rarer and more resistant, it offers many colors: from the magnificent and very prized spring green, to white, pink, mauve, black and ochre to brown.

2 jadeite discs white-mauve jadeite

Only the most precious jadeites have a homogeneous color, jade often has veins, spots, networks of color that the most talented sculptors have been able to take advantage of for their designs (as for the famous cabbage of the Taipei museum-see below).

cabbage and 2 jadeite insects

Cabbage and two insects, jadeite, Qing period, ( ) National Palace Museum, Taipei

I discovered jade on my first trip to China in 1987, before studying gemology. On the market of Dali, in Yunnan, I was offered some jade. I acquired then, at a low cost, 2 discs of nephrite, (photo above in the article), one of white jadeite speckled with green and a white and green bracelet which turned out to be tinted marble, as it often happens. Its low price was in itself proof of its low value.
Later, during my gemology studies, I was able to acquire two discs of jadeite, bright green (see also above), they cost me almost a term of tuition!
It seems reasonable to require an invoice for any purchase, and, if possible a certificate of laboratory for a piece exceeding 5000 euros.

Value of jade

Today, the most beautiful jadeites come from Myanmar. There, at the stone fair, jade blocks of all sizes are auctioned. When buying a rough, traders have to rely on luck because the nodules, blocks or fragments are sold whole or in thick slices, and only a small "window" could be polished to see inside the crystal. The buyer can hardly see what is inside the nodule: either jade of a beautiful colour, homogeneous and precious, or a mottled or veined material of lesser value.

In general, the value of jade is determined by its color and intensity, vividness, texture, purity and transparency.

As far as green jade is concerned, experts differentiate 7 main qualities, from the intense and uniform green of imperial jade, to speckled greens passing by apple green and spinach green.

These shades are on a continuum and are difficult to recognize by the untrained eye.

In the USA and Europe, emerald green, spinach green and apple green are the most popular. In Asia, pure white or a beautiful yellow with a shade of pink are particularly popular. For jewelry, the purple shades of lavender jade are very popular.

However, the emerald green of the imperial jade, which is very rare, transparent on the edges and offers a deep colour, reaches new heights. Unfortunately, this has led to the treatment of poor quality stones that may have been bathed (dyed) or treated with glues, so it is better to buy from reputable houses.
To conclude on the chapter of the market value, here is a ring, of a great simplicity, mounted with a jade in half-sphere, with perfect crystallization.
Its price exceeded 3, 7 million US Dollars in 2015.

Christies Hong Kong Sale

Finally, here is an original creation by Jean Grisoni, featuring a Vietnamese jade cabochon, recently sold by the gallery.

Jean Grisoni ring, yellow gold and jade