Jadeite, a famous gem with mystical properties, has been mined by humans since the Stone Age. The gem is reputed to be more valuable than gold, and is especially prized in Chinese and Chinese-American cultures. The stunning stone varies in color from pale white to the deepest black, but green tones are the most traditional. The history, properties, and mystical elements of the gem are described here.
General Information about Jadeite
Jadeite was discovered by humans thousands of years ago. The stone has been used for decorative and practical purposes since the Stone Age. The name comes from the Spanish phrase, “piedra de ijada.” This means “stone of the side.” This name given by the Spanish explorers derives from the Mayan tradition of holding a jade stone to the side to cure digestive ailments.
Since ancient times, many cultures have considered jade and jadeite to be more valuable than gold, emeralds, and diamonds. Much sought after for their beauty as well as their metaphysical and traditional properties, the gems are treasured by cultures around the world.
The gem was traded from Northern Italy to the British Isles during the Stone Age. The material was used to make axe heads as well as decorative items. Stone age jewelry and axe heads made from the stone were also found in Japan. The stone was also mined in Precolumbian Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, where it was carved into beautiful pendants and stylized axe heads.
The stone is particularly important in Chinese culture. The five virtues of the stone are as follows: righteousness, wisdom, bravery, honesty, and cleanliness. Along with its close relative, nephrite jade, it is used to this day in decorative items and jewelry.
Jadeite was recognized as a separate but related stone from nephrite jade in 1863. Before that time, they were known as “hard jade” (jadeite) and “soft jade” (nephrite).
Identifying True Jadeite
Counterfeiting of the stone is common. It can be challenging to identify pure jadeite. One of the best tests to determine the authenticity of the gem is by testing its specific gravity. Separating the gem from its relative, jade, can be done by performing a “chime test.” Nephrite jade makes a musical sound when it is struck, and jadeite does not.
Properties of Jadeite
- Alternative Names: Lavender Jadeite, New Blue Jade.
- Hardness: Between 6.5 and 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale.
- Color: Varies from white, blue to greenish blue, yellow to orange, gray, brown, violet, and black.
- Transparency: Semitransparent to Opaque.
- Lustre: Vitreous.
- Habit: Fibrous, Granular.
Metaphysical Details about Jadeite
In Mesoamerica, the stone was known as the “spleen stone” for its positive effects on the body. It was cast into wells to encourage the purity of the water. In the Mayan culture, the stone was associated with the wind and the sun. The stone was closely associated with the powers of life and death. It was used as a funerary relic and placed in the mouths of the dead.
In China, the gem is known as “yu,” meaning “precious gem,” “heavenly stone,” or “imperial gem.” A popular saying about the stone is that “gold is valuable while jade is priceless.”
In Chinese culture, the gem has been reputed to have a wide variety of mystical powers. The gem is said to encourage power, clarity, and long life. It was also said to preserve the bodies of the dead from decomposing, meaning that it was an important funerary gem. An ancient Han Emperor, Liu Sheng, had a suit of armor made from jade to wear in his tomb.
To this day, the gem is considered a protective force with metaphysical properties. The stone is known as the “Dream Stone,” encouraging wearers as they attempt to contact the spiritual world. Jadeite is used by seekers of truth and to solve the riddles of dreams. The stone also encourages good luck, friendship, and tranquil wisdom. The gem is also used in feng shui to encourage prosperity.
Examples of Famous Jewelry Containing Jadeite
New York City heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton, famous as the “Million Dollar Baby,” owned a collection of fantastic jewelry made from the gem. A bangle carved from a single piece of the gem was sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HK $7,040,000 in 1988.
Another famous piece of jewelry from Hutton’s collection was a necklace with 27 beads that came from the estate of the Russian Princess Nina Mdivani. This piece was auctioned in 1994 for the staggering price of US $4.2 million.
The gem’s perfection and quality enhanced the value of these pieces. The necklace in particular is reputed to be made from the finest Burmese stone. In order to create a matching necklace, all of the beads need to be carved from the same boulder.
How to Wear It
The incredible beauty of the gem is enough to make it an attractive possession.Nonetheless, many people wear it for its metaphysical properties such as protection, dream guiding, and good luck.
Bangles made from a single piece of the gem are traditionally worn today in Chinese and Chinese-American culture, where they are considered protective. The gem is often cut in cabochon form, making gorgeous necklaces and rings.
Where Can We Find Jadeite Today?
The gem is most famously mined in Tawmaw, Myanmar. It is also found in Japan, Guatemala, California, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Other deposits include British Columbia, Italy, and Turkestan.
The mining of the stone has serious environmental impacts, especially in Myanmar. The hillsides are stripped by bulldozers and excavators, causing destruction to the forest and to animal habitats. The mining also has a significant human toll, with serious dangers to miners’ lives.
The Magic of Jadeite
The famous gem has been treasured for thousands of years. Its beauty and mystical properties make it an attractive item to wear or keep in the home. Since it is so valuable, it is also a solid investment.
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