Nephrite and jadeite were used from prehistoric periods for hardstone carving. Jadeite has about the same hardness as quartz. Nephrite is slightly softer, but is tougher than jadeite. It was not until the 19th century that a French mineralogist determined that "jade" was in fact two different minerals.
Among the earliest known jade artifacts excavated from prehistoric sites are simple ornaments with bead, button, and tubular shapes. Additionally, jade was used for adze heads, knives, and other weapons, which can be delicately shaped. As metal-working technologies became available, the beauty of jade made it valuable for ornaments and decorative objects.
Jadeite measures between 6.0 and 7.0 Mohs hardness, and nephrite between 6.0 and 6.5, so it can be worked with quartz or garnet sand, and polished with bamboo or even ground jade.
Since at least 2950 BC, Jade has been treasured in China as the royal gemstone. Jade is a bridge between the spiritual and the material world. Jade was thought to preserve the body after death and can be found in emperors' tombs from thousands of years ago. One tomb contained an entire suit made out of Jade, to assure the physical immortality of its owner. In Central America, the Olmecs, the Mayans and the Toltecs also treasured jade and used it for carvings and masks. The Aztecs instituted a tax in Jade, which unfortunately led to the recycling of many earlier artworks.
Jade is usually cut into smooth dome shapes called cabochons. Jadeite bangles are also very popular in Asian countries. Beads are also very beautiful and some important jadeite necklaces made during the art deco period have fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars in auctions. Most treasured for its vivid greens, jade also comes in lavender, pink, yellow, and white.
While jadeite is mined today primarily in Myanmar, small quantities can be found in Guatemala.
We use both natural and color enhanced Jade in our jewelry.
Here is a photo of a 14K gold over silver ring with jade:
Check out more jewelry with jade.