Jadeite is colourless when pure and more translucent than nephrite. It is not as tough as nephrite and breaks with a granular fracture. It ranges in colour from the highly valued apple or emerald green to white, pink, mauve and purple. Emerald green jade called "Imperial Jade" is colored by chromium. Other colors are influenced by iron (green and brown) and manganese (violet colors). The picture to right is of a Burmese jadeite ring.
Other minerals have been sold as "jade" and include a hard form of serpentinite called Bowenite and a stone that is closely related to jadeite known as Maw-sit-sit. The latter is a rare green gemstone that has dark-green to black veining and, sometimes, white spots. This stone is found in Maw-sit-sit (Myanmar, Burma), often near jadeite, but it is not actually a type of jade. Bright apple green chrysoprase from central Australia has often been mistaken for or even sold as "jade".
|History of Jade|
Since at least 2950 BC, jade has been treasured in China as the royal gemstone, yu. It has been called the green essence of heaven and earth and is considered to unite the five virtues of charity, modesty, courage, justice and wisdom.
Chinese believed that when powdered and mixed with water, it provided a remedy for many internal disorders and prevented decomposition of the body if taken just before death. Jade can be found in emperors' tombs from thousands of years ago and one tomb contained an entire suit made out of jade to assure the physical immortality of its owner.
Jade carving was well established in China by 1500 BC with most objects being ceremonial or ritual. One war lord is reputed to have exchanged fifteen cities for a dish made of white jade.
Ancient jade carved in China was nephrite jade but the Chinese knew about jadeite and travelers had brought back some jadeite from Burma as early as the thirteenth century AD. It only became popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when trade with Burma opened up.