JADE AS A PRECIOUS GEMSTONE
There are 2 types of Jade; Jadeite and Nephrite. Both have distinctly different mineral compositions. Nephrite and jadeite were used from prehistoric periods for hardstone carving. Jadeite has about the same hardness as quartz. Nephrite is slightly softer but tougher (more resistant to breakage) than jadeite. It was not until the 19th century that a French mineralogist, Alexis Damour (1808-1902), determined that “jade” was in fact two different minerals.
* Jadeite is sodium and aluminium-rich pyroxene. The precious form of jadeite jade is a microcrystalline interlocking growth of jadeite crystals. Jadeite measures at 6.0 – 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale.
* Nephrite is magnesium-iron rich. The higher the iron content, the greener the colour. Nephrite has 6.0 – 6.5 Mohs hardness scale.
These 2 minerals have very similar physical properties in the eye of the average person. Only trained observers with significant experience are able to reliably differentiate them without mineral testing equipment. This is why Jadeite and Nephrite were not properly distinguished by scientists until 1863.
Through experience and traditional gemlore, the Ancient Chinese were able to identify and distinguish Jadeite from Nephrite. They were willing to pay premium prices for Jadeite even before humans had the scientific equipment or chemistry knowledge to differentiate Jadeite and Nephrite. In rare occasions, Chinese craftsmen would come across rich, uniquely bright, uniformly translucent, and pure green Jadeite, which they dubbed as Imperial Jade or Royal Jade, whereupon it became even more associated with the Chinese imperial dynasties.
As early as the Chinese Neolithic period, Jade, among other stones, were mined and used as accessories, weapon decorations, and even burial shrouds. By 2000BC, the Ancient Chinese had established Jade as one of the most precious stones in the realm. There is a saying among the Ancient Chinese, that gold may have a price, but Jade is priceless.
The Five Virtues of Jade: Wisdom, Benevolence, Integrity, Modesty and Courage.
Confucius alludes to the Chinese love for Jade as being revered by all under the sun not because of its rarity, but because in his writings, a gentleman’s virtue is likened to the prestige and value of Jade.