Dear Collector Friend,
I have been coveting jadeite for a long time. Every now and then I get very lucky and find some on the market. Its so much in demand that vendors can successfully try anything to lure their customers into purchasing. One always has to watch out for a too consistent colour, it can imply there maybe a dye process involved…
One day I decided to find a Jadeite ring at a Precious Gemstone Exhibit I was attending. I looked very carefully to find the perfect stone that was calling out to me. The previous year I was on the same hunt but came home empty handed. I visited all of the gem connoisseurs that I knew of and some had rings, but unfortunately they weren’t that irresistible colour of green. It was near the end of the day and then then surprisingly, in a very average looking display counter I spotted the ring from quite a distance. That gorgeous green melody of emerald and apple green shouted out my name. I have never worked with a rough block of jadeite this colour, so as soon as I spotted this ring I had chills up and down my spine. This is Jadeite in its finest form I thought.
Jadeite is the rarer of two jade variations, the other one is nephrite. Most of the world’s supply of fine jadeite comes from Myanmar. Jadeite did not reach China from Myanmar until the final third of the Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1735-96). Jadeite has a different structure than nephrite and has a glass-like translucency that was soon translated into jewellery and other pieces of personal adornment. Because so much jadeite is green, it is forgotten that jadeite occurs in many colours, including many variation of greens, plus white, lavender, pink, blue, grey, yellow, orange, black and shades of red.
Jade is an infamous stone known to many different cultures worldwide. Stone of the Heaven to the Chinese, Pounamu to the Maori, this stone today is actually defined as one of two forms; nephrite and jadeite.
Is there a difference between jadeite and nephrite?
Jadeite and nephrite are very different minerals. They have different densities, different hardness, different crystal structure, and different chemical compositions. Classic jade, the jade that comes from China, is nephrite, and jadeite, the rarer type of jade, comes from Burma.
The most valuable type of jade is a type of jadeite known as imperial jade that takes on a yellowish tone and contains chromium. Most nephrite, on the other hand, is quite affordable and does not have that added composition. Most people have a picture of what jade is but, in fact, jade as most people think of it is very different to the reality. What does exist, however, is jadeite and nephrite, two similar looking, but highly different materials that are sold on the market as jade. By knowing the differences between jadeite and nephrite and knowing what makes jadeite much more valuable
Jadeite, also referred to as soft jade, is a variety of pyroxene, a sodium and aluminium silicate.
Jadeite is rarer found than nephrite.
Jadeite shows more colours variations, including white, grey, blue, green, lavender-mauve, yellow orange, reddish, pink, violet, brown and black. Translucent emerald-green jadeite is the most prized and most expensive variety of jade.
Mostly jadeite shows light to dark green.
Polished jadeite has a glassy, vitreous, vivid lustre. Well-polished pieces have a “patent leather” shine, but considerable lapidary expertise is necessary to produce it. Jadeite sometimes frustrates lesser cutters with its tendency to undercut, which can create a dimpled or “orange peel” surface.
Supply driven Style
When it comes to high-quality jadeite, growing demand among China’s increasingly wealthy and middle classes have had a significant influence on rising prices.
Dwindling raw jade stocks in Myanmar, which supplies the vast majority of the world’s jade and is the only source of high-quality stone, has also compounded the issue.
Auction houses in Asia, where the vast majority of jade is sold, say this has led to a change in the styles of jade being sought among collectors, with a growing emphasis on quality factors like colours and translucency.
There were consecutive records set in 2013 and 2014, Chinese collectors these days are becoming more selective and are after pieces that are truly special and rare.
These days’ people are looking for simple items in terms of the style. People, especially jadeite collectors, are looking for the material, the quality of the stone.
On the retail end, the increased price and awareness of the stone has expanded the markets among Western buyers — Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain among them – and further segmented the market.
The global market for Jade is dominated by Burma where the majority of jadeite is produced. The size of the reported jade market is mainly dependent on data collected from Burma. Before conflict and mine shutdowns occurred in the country in 2011, jade sales were estimated to be an astounding $3.5 billion per year.
Not recognized until 1863 as two separate minerals, jadeite and nephrite: aggregate minerals that overlap in colours and transparency and have been used for tools and art objects throughout history, are both called “jade”. In most instances, jadeite is the more valuable member of the pair, especially in its highest quality where the price per carat can rival fine emeralds and diamonds. The granular, interlocking pattern taken by the tiny crystals in the aggregate accounts for its exceptional toughness enabling it to have been used both for tools with strength greater than most metals, and at the same time for the most delicate of carved artworks.
Jadeite was used throughout the millennium by many different cultures as weapons and tools. Recently a discovery in Guatemala shows that an extensive trade route formed throughout Central and South America dating before Spanish colonial rule. When the Spaniards invaded the Mayans hid these valued jadeite mines until modern history, when a hurricane swept through part of Guatemala to reintroduce itself to the world.
Nephrite, a more plentiful type of jade, comes out of many areas all over the world from China to the United States and Canada. Jadeite is found in far fewer locations. Two of the most important of these locations are Burma (Myanmar), New Zealand and Guatemala. Other locations in which jadeite can be found are Russia, Canada, Alaska and others.
Jadeite”s Mineral Composition
Jadeite is a pyroxene mineral and is monoclinic. It rates as a 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness (compared to 6-6.5 for nephrite). It is a dense mineral with the specific gravity of around 3.4.
Jadeite is formed in metamorphic rocks under high pressures and low temperatures. It is the common mineral Albite, which through increasing pressures breaks down to form jadeite and quartz.
The colours of Jadeite
Jadeite comes in a wide arrangement of colours unlike its counterpart, nephrite. The colours range from white in its purest form to apple and deep greens, the famous Olmec Blues of Guatemala, pink, lavender and others. The colours are affected by the range of trace elements found in the surrounding soils such as iron, which adds reds and other darker colours to chromium.
Translucence varies by each specimen. Currently the best gem quality specimens come out of Burma in commercial amounts but also California, Jadeite can be semi-transparent to opaque and covers the spectrum from colourless through white, green, yellow, brown, red, orange, violet, to grey and black in colours. In general, the colours range and saturation values are greater than with nephrite, as is the maximum possible degree of translucency. Some of the colours are given a variety of folk or trade names such as Imperial, apple green, moss-in-snow or chloromelanite. Imperial is the variety with the most highly saturated green colours, apple green has some yellow, spinach green is darker and less vivid than Imperial or apple green, moss in snow has patterns in white and green, and chloromelanite is such a dark green as to appear black. Various combinations of chromium and iron are responsible for the different colours.
Jadeite is considered more valuable than nephrite and its most prized colours is the most vivid and intense green and translucent varieties, though historically white jade was the most valued by the Chinese for its pure qualities. Olmec blue jade is becoming another highly valued variety of jadeite and is characterized by its deep, blue-green colours sometimes with a translucent hue and white flecks.
Virtually all of the jadeite in the mass jewelry market has been enhanced through some combination of heating, bleaching, and dyeing or resin impregnation. It’s generally easy to spot such treatments as the stones look too uniform and saturated in colours, whereas all but the very highest grades of natural colours material show some mottling of lighter and darker colours, and more or less translucent zones. Reputable vendors designate three grades of jade: “A” jade, which has had no enhancing treatment of any kind, “B” jade, which has been bleached or acid treated to remove dark spots and resin impregnated to fill the resulting voids, and “C” jade, which has been bleached, resin impregnated and dyed. It is relatively common for jadeite, even in top grades, to get a simple surface polish with a layer of colourless paraffin or beeswax.
Jadeite of inferior colours is usually dyed, while that of decent colours but with unattractive inclusions is subjected just to the bleaching/resin process. If you look around most of the mass market venues: trade shows, catalogs, home shopping channels, online auctions, etc., you will see B and C jade in abundance but, in fact, you will rarely, if ever, see ‘A’ grade jade.
The ubiquitous presence of these brightly dyed and otherwise enhanced jades has in some eyes diminished the beauty of the more subtle colours of natural jades, and leads some to question the much higher costs associated with the “real deal”.
By far, the most valuable variety of jadeite is that termed “Imperial”. The finest of these gems are nearly transparent and have the most highly saturated, even, green colours, rivaling (some would say surpassing) the finest emeralds. Such pieces are extremely scarce and astronomically expensive the name derives from the time when only the Imperial household was permitted, and could afford to own it. Among the other green colours, the next most valuable shade is termed “apple green”. Fine, translucent, lavender pieces can rival good greens in price, whereas highly mottled or opaque gems are worth considerably less. Chloromelanite has some value as a scarce collector material. As with nephrite, much of the value in jadeite works of art comes from the skill with which they were carved or the antiquity of the pieces.
Nephrite jade is also referred to as the hard jade. Nephrite, a variety of mineral actinolite, is a calcium and magnesium silicate, Ca2 (Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2, composed of fibrous intertwined crystals.
Compared, nephrite is less expensive than jadeite, since it is more widespread.
Nephrite shows mainly the colours variation: creamy white, slightly yellow, grey, green, and at times topaz, reddish and black.
Nephrite’s robustness is because it contains the mineral tremolite.
Polished nephrite has a surface with a resinous lustre, opaque at times.
Nephrite is also called axe-stone, Beilstein (in German; Beil = hatchet, axe, Stein = stone), kidney stone, tomb – or grave stone.
Art, Nature, and Beauty Always,