The first image that comes to mind when I think of jade is an unforgettable intricate ancient Chinese sculpture once featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow whose appraisal value was in the hundreds of thousands (the exact figure escapes me) but that price pales in comparison to the exquisite green jade necklace that was sold at Christie’s Auction in 1997 for a staggering US$9.3M.
But there’s so much more to jade than just its ticket price for it was known thousands of years ago by prehistoric peoples the world over who used it to make weapons of all descriptions, tools, ornaments, jewellery, and religious artifacts. This was possible because jade is a very hard and durable mineral that resists fracturing when subjected to stress, making it equally a very desirable material for gemstones of every design and shape.
And another interesting feature is that it was considered the purest of all minerals and therefore imbued with certain magical or mystical powers that would inspire the wearer’s highest spiritual aspirations yet remain sensual and self-indulgent enough to satisfy his/her materialistic cravings.
Other Interesting Facts about Jade
Everyone, including the appraiser on that Antiques Roadshow episode, refers to this beautiful ornamental green rock as jade but the fact is jade is made of not just one mineral but two: Jadeite and Nephrite with jadeite being the prized rock of choice for those prehistoric peoples all over the known world at that time – China, and Central America among the Aztecs and Mayans – who used it for their carvings, jewellery, ornaments, and even medicine; hence the name jade given the stone by the early Spanish explorers after witnessing the natives pressing the stone to their bodies in the belief that it would cure or relieve their various aches and pains.
The discovery, by a French scientist, Alexis Damour, of the existence of the two minerals did not occur until 1863 but was known by Chinese master craftsmen in the 1700s who, working daily with the green stone, recognized that the jade from Burma (Jadeite) was different than that mined in China and thus was born the jade that became known as the exclusive Imperial Jade available only to the Emperors.
The fact that these two minerals are so similar in their physical properties – hardness, colour, lustre, specific gravity, and toughness – explains why the existence of two escaped notice until the 19th century. In fact, the only or perhaps the main difference is in their chemistry property for Jadeite is a pyroxene silicate whereas Nephrite is an amphibole silicate.
This difference, however, can only be discerned by a jade specialist. Hence a word of caution to buy jade only from a reputable source or someone you trust because of the many fakes that abound in the marketplace.
Jade Colours and Ancient Symbolic Motifs
While the most highly prized and of course most expensive colour is the best ‘Imperial Green’, similar to that of a fine emerald, jade also exists in many other colours: various shades of green; yellow, white, reddish-orange; grey; black, brown, lavender, and streaked or mottled colours. Sculptors and carvers love these streaked and mottled colours that give the stone an interesting visual texture for them too create stunning and truly imaginative effects.
The ancient symbolic motifs still used in modern jade carvings include: Bat (for happiness); Butterfly (long life); Dragon (for power, prosperity, and goodness); Peach (symbolizing immortality), and Bi – a flat circular disk with a hole in the centre – (for heaven) and a symbol of great spiritual significance. Jade is also, in Chinese culture, associated with purity of spirit and clarity of mind and symbolizes success, prosperity, and good fortune.
For more information about jade please contact LL private Jewellers at 604-683-3918.