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The Story on Jade, Jadeite & Nephrite

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Jade has been cherished for thousands of years. It’s considered gentle, pure and lasting enough to inspire wearer for higher purpose, yet attractive and luxurious enough to satisfy our mortal cravings for beauty. Today, both Asians or non-Asians are attracted to Jade due to its rich heritage and its beauty, durability, and rarity; regardless of the harder Jadeite or softer Nephrite.

Nephrite Jade

A piece of hand-carved nephrite jade pendant made in around 2010.
Nephrite Jade Pendant

Nephrite jade has its roots in the prehistoric period. During the Stone Age, people around the World, such as China and Europe, shaped this toughest of minerals (known at the time) into weapons, tools, ornaments, and ritual objects. Carvings of these time are usually related to the spiritual so as to invoke the powers of heaven and earth and mystic forces.

This relationship has persisted into modern times, and is still used among native societies in New Zealand and parts of North America. On the other hand, in China, Jade has evolved into an artistic tradition containing meaningful messages and well-wishes that has flourished for more than 3,000 years and is still widely sought-after today.

In Central America, the Mayans and the Aztecs prized jadeite jade. Apart from jewelry, ornaments, and religious artifacts, it is also used for medicinal purposes. In fact, the name "jade" is actually the Spanish expression "piedra de ijada", which literally means “stone of the pain in the side". This is because Early Spanish explorers saw natives holding pieces of the stone to their sides to cure or relieve various aches and pains.

Jadeite Jade

It was in China, with a long history of jade-carving traditions, that Jadeite reached its peak as an important artistic medium. The first jadeite reached China from Burma (now known as Myanmar) in the late 1700s (Qing Dynasty), and in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century carvers created masterpieces that are still unsurpassed in concept, design, and technical execution. Jadeite also symbolizes prosperity, success, and good luck.

A hand-carved jadeite pendant made in recent times. Symbolism of heaven and protection.
Jadeite Pixiu & Bi Pendant

To the Chinese, jade is associated with clarity of mind and purity of spirit. Some of the ancient symbolic motifs are still used in modern jade carvings (both nephrite and jadeite), including:

  • Bat—fortune, happiness, fulfilment

  • Butterfly—long life

  • Peach—immortality

  • Bi (flat circular disk with a hole in the center) - heaven

  • Donut (rounded circular disk with a hold in the center) - safety

  • Pixiu - protection, safety, wealth attraction and accumulation

Source: Jade history and lore. Gemological Institute Of America. (n.d.).


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