Green is the color frequently brought to the mind when a jade stone is mentioned though few realize that this precious mineral can actually occur in many other colors. This is one quality which makes jade a hard stone to identify.
True jade can be one of two different minerals, nephrite and jadeite.
Nephrite is the original jade known to the Chinese as the stone of heaven. It is much more common of the two forms of jade and therefore is much more affordable.
Nephrite is the softer of the two jades ranking about a 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. This means that nephrite is harder than steel and can not be scratched by it.
Some sources say that nephrite is found in fewer varieties of color than jadeite. Judging just by the many colors of Big Sur Jade I find this not to be true. Big Sur jade comes in all of the colors which sources say jadeite comes in.
Jadeite on the other hand is a higher quality and harder version of jade. It is much rarer and comes out of Burma in commercial amounts. Jadeite has also been discovered in Guatemala and also is found in small amounts in other parts of the world.
Jadeite can occur in the many different colors of jade; red, green, blue, white, black and lavender to mention a few. As jadeite is the harder of the two stones it ranks at around a 7 on the Mohs scale. Jadeite is also harder than steel which means that it can no be scratched by it.
Some jade is waxed. Nephrite jade is also known to be treated and sold as jadeite.
Some jade is also heated to intensify its color.
Serpentine, treated quartz, plastic and even glass is sometimes even passed off as true jade. Remember that just because it is green does not mean that it is jade. Jade, ‘Yu’, in Chinese actually just means green stone though today the term jade refers to either nephrite or jadeite.
Your best bet to identify jade it to bring it to a reputable dealer or geologist.
So, how do you know if your jade is real?
Jade can be translucent to transparent to opaque. The main identifying factor for jade is its depth. Jade is a stone which you can see into.
The most desirable jade is that with uniform color throughout the stone. Green is also very desirable though other colors can be even rarer and precious.
There are also a few other ways to identify jade:
- Air Bubbles – Look into the stone. If you can see any air bubbles then it is NOT jade. Air bubbles mean that the stone is actually not a stone at all and is treated glass. Jade will not have air bubbles.
- Weight – Jade is DENSE. You can feel the weight of the stone. Nephrite and jadeite are both heavier than glass.
- Hardness – The hardness of jade is also another way to identify the stone. Since nephrite is a 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale and jadeite is a 7 neither can be scratched by steel.
- Condenser - Jade is a great condenser of heat and cool. My absolute favourite method to test jade is the the ‘hair’ test. Wrap a piece of hair tightly around the jade (I have found the the longer the hair the better). Use the flame from a lighter and wave it underneath the hair. If the hair burns it is not jade. If left unburned then the stone is actually jade. This happens because the jade absorbs and disperses the heat of the flame.
- Coolness – Also goes with the above point but many Burmese enthusiasts can be seen touching jade to their cheeks to feel its temperature. This was to determine its authenticity. You can also feel it in your hand for its coolness.
- Sound – Jade lets off an amazing tone when hit with other stones, metal and glass. This is actually also one of the ways to determine if the stone is A, B or C quality jade because the denser the stone the more pleasant and resonating the sound is. The end of the following video gives a great example of this test. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaHaTPRzH9U
- Texture – The texture of the stone also is a great indicator of if it is true jade. Jade can take on a high polish. Run your fingernail across the stone. If it feels bumpy than it is probably not jade.
- Strength – This probably can be categorized under density but jade is very strong. It is hard to break or chip. It is not a stone to be chiseled; only abrasives work, like grinding!
Jade has a shine and luster to it unlike any other stone. You have to look at it in the sunlight to really appreciate its beauty.