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“Jade” is a generic term for nephrite, jadeite, and under certain conditions green omphacite. In China, a pierced jade disk is a symbol of heaven.

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Jade is desired for its rich heritage as much as by its beauty, durability, and rarity.

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This 127.10-gram carving is originally from Tienjun, China

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Use of color

This carving makes use of jade’s intense green and white mottled areas.

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Hidden Beauty

Jadeite’s beauty hides under a crusty brown or yellow oxidized “skin.”

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Uncovering the Beauty

The boulder is sawn to view its inner color.

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Taking Shape

This 1041-gram jadeite boulder is sawn and marked for further cutting.

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About Jade

Jade has its cultural roots in the smoke-dimmed caves and huts that sheltered prehistoric humans. Around the world, Stone Age workers shaped this toughest of gems into weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Their carvings invoked the powers of heaven and earth and mystic forces of life and death.

Jade Description

Jade History and Lore

Birthstones & Anniversaries

Jade is the official gem for the 12th anniversary.


The philosopher wrote that jade is like virtue and its brightness represents heaven.


The traditional jade flat disc with a hole in the middle, known as a “bi,” symbolizes heaven.


The character for jade is one of the oldest in written Chinese, dating to 2950 BC.


  • Mineral: Jadeite, Nephrite, Green Omphacite
  • Chemical composition:
  • Jadeite: NaAlSi2O6
  • Nephrite: Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2
  • Omphacite: (Ca,Na)(Mg,Fe2+,Al)Si2O6
  • Color:  Green, white, orange, yellow, lavender, black
  • Refractive index: 1.666 to 1.680 (+/-0.008) and 1.606 to 1.632 (+0.009, 0.006)
  • Birefringence:  Usually not detectable
  • Specific gravity: 3.34 and 2.95
  • Mohs Hardness: 6.5 to 7 and 6.0 to 6.5


There are a number of processes used to alter the color, apparent clarity, or improve the durability of gems.

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Some gemstones have synthetic counterparts that have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties, but are grown by man in a laboratory.

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Any gem can be imitated—sometimes by manmade materials or by natural materials chosen by man to impersonate a particular gem.

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gem love

Why We Love This Gemstone

Interaction with Light

Jadeite’s structure scatters light. If properly cut, a white piece with a small green spot will make the gem appear completely green if lit from behind.

Tough, But Not Hard

Not unusually hard for a gem, both jade types are extremely tough. Neolithic knives and axe heads were often made of nephrite.

Musical Jade

Nephrite rings musically when struck. The imperial court in China had jade wind chimes designed to ring specific notes.

Quality Factors

For both jadeite and nephrite, green is the most valued color. Semi-transparent clarity and fine texture also increase jade’s value dramatically.


quality factors

The finest jadeite—almost transparent with a vibrant emerald-green color—is known as “imperial jade.”


quality factors

Jadeite’s transparency ranges from completely opaque to semi-transparent. The best jadeite is semi-transparent.


quality factors

Jadeite has a lovely, smooth, and even texture that makes people want to touch and hold the gem.


quality factors

While jade is rarely faceted like other gems, plain as well as intricate jade carvings are judged by their artistry.

Carat Weight

quality factors

Jadeite is generally sold by the piece rather than by weight. For top-quality imperial jadeite, slight size differences can make large value differences.

Jadeite Jade quality factors: The Comprehensive Guide


Explore sources, gemological research, and the role of gems in history.

Close-up of high-quality Shan Zi jadeite carving

The Spirit of Jadeite Carving

Tao Hsu and Andrew Lucas , Jun 18, 2014 Read Article
Sawing bangle blanks from jadeite slabs

Jadeite Manufacturing and Trading Hubs in Guangdong, China

Tao Hsu and Andrew Lucas , Aug 14, 2014 Read Article
Necklaces, pendants, statuette, and slab of serpentine

Gem-Quality Serpentine from Val Malenco, Central Alps, Italy

llaria Adamo, Valeria Diella, Rosangela Bocchio, Caterina Rinaudo, and Nicoletta Marinoni , Apr 28, 2016 Read Article
Artist draws design on rough jadeite

Witnessing the Creation of Jadeite Masterpieces

Tao Hsu and Andrew Lucas , May 30, 2014 Read Article