Jade is one of the most well-known and popular gemstones in the world, but did you know it has two different types? The signature perfect green mineral that is often used in super-expensive jewellery is called “Jadeite”, whereas “Nephrite Jade” is its more common, affordable (and we think more interesting!) cousin. It’s also hard as nails!
Of the two types of Jade, Nephrite is by far the most widespread and popular. It is quite different to Jadeite as it comes in an array of colours such as yellow, green, white, brown, black and grey. The most sought-after colour is of course green, which is often speckled with black dots.
There are large Nephrite deposits throughout Western Canada and China. Whenever you see “Chinese Jade”, you are looking at Nephrite because there actually aren’t any Jadeite deposits in China. However, beware because there are many trade names using the word “Jade” such as “Malaysian Jade” (Quartzite), “Mashan Jade” (Dolomite) and many others like Candy Jade and Persian. The term “Jade” is used loosely by some suppliers so make sure you double-check descriptions. At Charming Beads, you will find any trade names have a full description of what the actual material is.
Nephrite tools have been found from as far back as the neolithic period (7th millennium BC) in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Greece. In Russia, Nephrite was mined from around 3000BC and Tsar Alexander III’s sarcophagus was carved from it. Nephrite has been prized for centuries by Native North Americans of British Columbia who refer to it as “Greenstone”. The word Jade comes from a phrase used by the Spanish conquistadors. The Aztecs said the green stone could heal liver, kidney, and spleen problems, so the Spaniards started to call it "piedra de ijada," meaning "loin stone". The word “Nephrite” can be translated into Kidney.
Nephrite Jade is embedded in Chinese history and culture, and even the medals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics were mounted with it! Nephrite was excavated from the Kunlun Mountains of China from around 5000BC and used to create ceremonial objects, indoor decorations and even burial suits! Due to its hardness, Nephrite has been used in weaponry for millennia. Nowadays it is used for ornamental objects and jewellery. Only 0.05% of Nephrite is considered gem quality.
For centuries Nephrite Jade and Jadeite were considered one and the same and it was not until 1863 that they were identified by a French chemist as different minerals with similar appearances and properties. Nephrite is composed of Silica and Magnesia and its colour is determined by the amount of Iron present in the mineral. Nephrite has the highest tensile strength (i.e., toughness as opposed to hardness) of ALL natural gemstones and in fact has a tensile strength greater than some steel! This is why it cannot be chiselled and has to be ground using sharp abrasives. Nephrite has a rating of 6.5 on the MOHs scale.
Wearing Jade in bangles and bracelets is thought to protect you from sickness. In China, delicately carved bracelets are popular for this reason. In lovemaking, Jade is said to help you connect with your lover on an erotic and spiritual level.