What is Jade
Jade is an ornamental stone used in jewelery as well as in cultural representations. There are two kinds of jade and it can be easy to confuse the two.
The first is called Nephrite and is basically a combination of magnesia and silica, with quantities of alumina and oxides of iron and chrome. The color can vary from a pale soapy greenish white to a clear and deep green, the most favoured of colors. The green is due to the iron content and the more iron the greener the jade will be.
The other form of jade is called Jadeitite and this is a different form of mineral called sodium- and aluminium-rich pyroxene. The gem form of the mineral is, again, a microcrystalline interlocking but crystal matrix.
The word jade is derived from the Spanish term, "piedra de ijada", or Lion Stone. Possibly due to its reputation for treating and curing various illnesses of the kidneys and loins. The word Nephrite is derived from the Latin, "Lapis Nephriticus."
Both forms of jade have been used since prehistoric times for stone carving despite the hardness of both materials. Jadeitite is around the same hardness as quartz with nephrite somewhat softer. Both are very tough however and extremely hard to carve, Nowadays diamond duct is frequently used to carve both. Because of their virtual similarity, the difference between then was not known until a French mineralogist isolated the difference.
Jade has been traditionally used since prehistoric times for axe heads, knives and clubbing weapons as well as for ornaments and jewelery.
One can find jade in a variety of colors from the milky white (In China known as "mutton fat" jade) through to the deep green and even blue and lavender-mauve or pink, although these are extremely rare. Of the two types of Jade Jadeitite is the more rare and consequently the most expensive. So when buying jade one has to establish the type of jade it is to assure one is paying the right price.
Nephrite and jadeite were used from prehistoric periods for hard stone carving. Jadeite has about the same hardness as quartz, while nephrite is somewhat softer. Both nephrite and jadeite are tough, but nephrite is tougher than jadeite. They can be delicately shaped. Thus it was not until the 19th century that a French mineralogist determined that "jade" was in fact two different materials. The trade name jadite is sometimes applied to translucent or opaque green glass.
Of all jades, the translucent emerald-green jadeite is and has been probably the most prized both today and historically.
Bright green Jadeitite from Guatemala was treasured by Mesoamerican cultures, and as "kingfisher" jade, vivid green rocks from Burma became the preferred stone of post-1800 Chinese imperial scholars and rulers. Burma (Myanmar) and Guatemala are the principal sources of modern gem Jadeitite, and Canada of modern lapidary nephrite. Nephrite jade was used mostly in pre-1800 China as well as in New Zealand, the Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coasts of North America, Neolithic Europe, and south-east Asia.
Jade has also been known by many other names, including:
British Columbian Jade
Nephrite (of Werner)
New Zealand Greenstone
New Zealand Jade
Some other minerals are sometimes sold as jade so one has to watch for these also when buying jade.
These are commonly:
Serpentine also called by other names such as: bowenite, "Korean jade," "Suzhou jade," "Styrian jade," "Olive jade", and "New jade")
Australian chrysoprase. And lastly.
"Transvaal jade" or "African jade".
So when you ask the question, what is jade, hopefully you will have a better idea than you might have had before.
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