Jade is famous worldwide for its lovely green opaque colors, and it a versatile gem that is easily shaped, polished or carved into almost all forms of jewelry.
Ranging from pure white and the palest, creamiest greens and finally to dark bottle-green and black, this gem made its way into the Western world from the Chinese market. The Chinese have revered jade for centuries and it a huge part of their culture; bearing mystical significance for power, curative abilities and love. There is a slight misconception about the two kinds of mineral compositions that are normally called ‘jade'. They are both created from tightly interlocking crystals that are very resistant to chipping or breaking, but there is a slight difference in density and a big difference in color. The more expensive kind does not, in fact, come from China and wasn't even known in China until the mid 18 th century. Far more desirable and costly than its less attractive cousin, ‘Jadeite' is found in Burma , Russia , Japan , California and Guatemala . For this reason, any Chinese jade dated before 1740 is not jadeite.
Jadeite is slightly harder and denser than nephrite jade and as a result it's easily polished to give it sheen. It comes in a whole range of colors not normally associated with jade. It is rated for consistency of color with the solid colors drawing the greatest prices and the dappled, striped variety priced less expensively. This is not a hardy gem, despite its 7 rating on the Moh scale, and it should be worn with care. Besides the lovely, most coveted ‘Imperial jade', that is most prized when it is found in very translucent, rich emerald green , this gem-type is also found in pale silvery grey, pale pinks and earth-browns, mauve, lilac, yellow, black and even orange.
Jadeite's less coveted cousin is the ‘Nephrite jade', and it should always cost less, despite its resemblance to jadeite. Most of the jade pieces you will encounter today are nephrite. The oldest known source of nephrite is Xinjiang Province in China , though it is also found in Alaska , British Columbia , New Zealand , Taiwan , Australia , Poland , Germany , Zimbabwe , Mexico , India , and the U.S ( California , Wyoming ). Unlike jadeite, it doesn't come in a wide array of colors, or in the bright viridian greens of jadeite, but instead is uniformly green. Its color-range, however, isn't paltry, ranging in lovely dark shades of bottle-green and sage green to almost black sap-green (often misrepresented as ‘black jade'). Most of the nephrite jade in the market is still Chinese and it a good choice both because of its color and its affordability. Nephrite should cost about $10-$50 per carat weight, though old pieces of nephrite may cost more. There are several types of authentic nephrite jade, some named for the place of origin and some with funny names: ‘Kidney stone', ‘Maori jade and Greenstone jade' (both from New Zealand), ‘Spinach jade', ‘Ax stone' and ‘California jadeite'.
Evaluating jade is not as difficult as trying to evaluate other stones, as there are some clear guidelines you can follow. In general, the rare lavender, lilac, red, yellow and white jade has the most value, but as these are rarely seen in the market you will probably encounter only green jade. Of the green, the most valuable is the vivid medium to medium-dark shades of green. Like every colored gem, solid color is the most appreciated and as the basic green is sullied with brown, grey or yellow undertones- the price is reduced. Color is also influenced by the texture of the gem. Different densities of crystals will produce either fine-grade or coarse-grade jade and this is one way for you to determine whether you are looking at coarse nephrite jade or fine jadeite. Uniformity is also very important to value and the blotchy or mottles stones should sell for less.
Expensive jade should be nearly transparent, with the opaque kinds valued for less and it should be cut cabochon style; ovals and round shapes are more popular and attractive than flat or rectangular shapes. It should have a depth of atleast 2-3 mm because anything less leaves the gem vulnerable to breaking and reduces price considerably.
The popularity of the gem has made it susceptible to imitations and any jade purchase should be done with some care and research. Anything called ‘B-Jade', for example, is actually jade that has been bleached and impregnated with synthetic filler. Anything called ‘C-Jade' is jade that has been dyed in addition to being bleached and impregnated with filler. But most often of all, this gem is misrepresented and anything called “Soochow jade” (serpentine or soapstone), “Australian jade” (chrysoprase quartz), “Virginia jade” (feldspar), “Mexican jade (green calcite), “New jade” (serpentine), “Manchurian jade” (soapstone), “Indian jade” (aventurine quartz), “Swiss jade” (jasper quartz), “Korean jade” (serpentine), “Amazon jade” (amazonite), “Oregon jade” (jasper), “Honan jade” (soapstone), ”Pikes Peak jade” (amazonite), “African jade” (green garnet), “Fukien jade” (soapstone) or “Colorado jade” (amazonite feldspar) is certainly not authentic . There are many green gem types that make look similar to the real gem, but in actuality are variations of other materials, such as quartz or garnet. Soapstone is used, being a soft, malleable stone that is often carved to look like real jade and will scratch so easily that it can be tested with a small pin. Even real jade is routinely treated, at times to protect it and at times to disguise its flaws. The store you are buying from should indicate what type of jade you are buying and exactly what treatments it has undergone.
Waxing is routine for protection after final polishing and this entirely acceptable, but dying pale jade into darker colors is not - and must be disclosed . Check the back of the gem to see if it open-backed. Anything close-backed it not recommended, as these are usually to disguise lower-grade stones. If there is an open back, see if light filters through the jade. It is basically translucent, so light should filter through. Today jade is sometimes bleached and treated with polymer impregnation to remove brown undertones and purify color. The jade is soaked in chemicals and then impregnated with epoxy resin to fill in the fractures created with the bleach. This should reduce price considerably, as the treatment isn't permanent and it will eventually disintegrates the gem.
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