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.
Jadeite has been used throughout the millennium by many different cultures as weapons and tools. Recently a discovery in Guatemala shows that an extensive trade route was formed throughout Central and South America dating before Spanish colonial rule. When the Spaniards invaded the Mayans these valued jadeite mines were hidden until modern history, when a hurricane swept through part of Guatemala to reintroduce itself to the world.
Jadeite is a harder stone than nephrite. The first distinction between the nephrite and jadeite was made in the late 1700′s when the subtle differences between the two stones were identified. 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) and Guatemala.
Jadeite is a harder form of jade, is more expensive in price and is famous for its gem qualities.
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 formed in the common mineral Albite which through increasing pressures breaks down to form jadeite and quartz.
Jadeite appears to form from subduction zone fluids with serpentine. It is very resistant to weathering and boulders of it are released in areas with in serpentine.
The colors of Jadeite
Jadeite forms in a wide arrangement of colors unlike its counterpart, nephrite. The colors range from white in its purest form to apple and deep greens, the famous Olmec Blues of Guatemala, pink, lavender and others. Color is affected by the range of trace elements found in the surrounding soils such as iron which adds reds and other darker colors to chromium.
Translucence varies by each specimen. Currently the best gem quality specimens come out of Burma in commercial amounts but also California, New Zealand and Guatemala. Other locations in which jadeite can be found are Russia, Canada, Alaska and others.
Jadeite is considered more valuable than nephrite and its most prized color 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 color sometimes with a translucent hue and white flecks.