Rona recently unveiled these three new ring designs, all with jade. Their debut garnered many compliments and much enthusiasm. Customers honed right in on the rings and identified the shiny dark green stones immediately. My interest was piqued and I wanted to find out more.
The Two Forms of Jade
I already knew that there are two different kinds of jade: nephrite and jadeite. (According to Wikipedia and other sources, it was not until the 19th century that jade was determined to be two different minerals).
I learned that jadeite measures between 6.0 and 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale, and nephrite between 6.0 and 6.5, meaning that nephrite is slightly softer than jadeite. But nephrite is tougher, less brittle, making it less inclined to break when being carved. (This was of particular value in prehistoric times, when it was used to carve weapons).
Jadeite is considered the rarer form of jade, making it pricier.
Jade is usually thought of as a green stone, and both nephrite and jadeite are found in many shades of green. But nephrite can also be a creamy white (known as "mutton-fat" in China); this color of jade is considered very valuable.
Jadeite can be found in a wide array of colors, including violet, red, pink, orange, brown, black, and gray.
The most prized color of jade is a bright emerald-green jadeite, also known as imperial jade.
Interest in jade spans many centuries, dating back at least as far as 4000 B.C. in the Neolithic age. Both forms of jade were used from prehistoric times to carve a variety of objects from buttons and beads to weapons, decorative and ceremonial items, jewelry, sculpture, and full-body burial suits (in keeping with the ancient Chinese belief that jade would confer immortality).
Jade is also considered to have musical value and has been used to make wind chimes. As well, jade was also believed to have supernatural powers, and objects were carefully handed down from generation to generation, and also placed in tombs.
One of the most common uses of jade is the carved bi, a flat jade disc with a circular hole in the center. The bi is said to signify heaven; it was used in funeral ceremonies and has been found in tombs. It can be used as an ornament, worn on a string or chain, or carried in a pocket. The 2008 Beijing Olympic medals had a jade bi on the reverse side.
According to an article on the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) website, "as early as 3000 B.C. jade was known in China as 'yu,' the 'royal gem.' In the long history of the art and culture of the enormous Chinese empire, jade has always had a very special significance, roughly comparable with that of gold and diamonds in the West."
And while jade is usually associated with China, it was also used in prehistoric and historic India and Korea, as well as New Zealand--where it was and still is very popular among the Maori people--Southeast Asia, and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, where it was considered more valuable than gold.
Where Does It Come From?
Nephrite has been mined in China, New Zealand, Russia, Guatemala, and the Swiss Alps. Dark green nephrite jade, also called Canada jade, is found in western Canada. The beautiful dark green jade in the rings that Rona just introduced comes from British Columbia, which is the main source of nephrite today; many of China's nephrite mines are now depleted.
Jadeite can be found in China, Russia, and Guatemala. But the finest jadeite comes from Burma (Myanmar), and Rona recently procured several jadeite stones from there. Below is a photo of some of them.
I was also interested to learn that in Lantian, in China's Shaanxi province, "white and greenish nephrite jade is found . . . as pebbles and boulders in the rivers flowing from the Kun-Lun mountain range northward into the Takla-Makan desert area."
Given Rona's interest in river pebbles, I found it intriguing that jade itself can be found in Chinese river pebbles!
Collecting jade in the White Jade River at Khotan in 2011 Photo by John Hill
Perhaps because jade has been part of humankind for so many eras, and throughout so much of the world, it has many different meanings. The word jade itself comes from the Spanish term piedra de ijada or "loin stone," because it was said to cure ailments of the loins and kidneys.
Jade has been said to be a symbol of the good, the beautiful, and the precious and that it embodies the Confucian virtues of wisdom, justice, compassion, modesty, and courage.
According to the ICA article, "In ancient Egypt, jade was admired as the stone of love, inner peace, harmony and balance. In other regions and cultures too, jade was regarded as a lucky or protective stone; yet it had nowhere near the significance that it had in Asia," where it has been associated with beauty, purity, nobility, perfection, constancy, durability, power, and immortality.
Gemstone therapy asserts that jade is a powerful, healing stone that encourages creativity.
A Real Connection
After reading up on jade, it struck me that this beautiful and captivating stone is part of our collective consciousness--which would explain why Rona's new jade rings were so well received. We'll keep you posted on what she does with the new jadeite!
Sources--and Further Reading: