Jade Jewelry: History, Meaning, Properties

As one of the most beautiful, mystical, and alluring gemstones in the world, jade has a reputation comparable to diamonds and gold. It also has a long history of being used for ritual, ceremonial, and ornamental purposes. While the history of its first use dates back to Ancient China, jade has also been used by many other cultures and civilizations. Today, jade is used in all kinds of fine jewelry, from bracelets, bangles, pendants, and necklaces to earrings and statement rings.

Keep reading to find out more about this iconic green gemstone, its history, and symbolism.

Types of Jade

Jade actually encompasses two mineral varieties: jadeite and nephrite. While nephrite jade is more readily available, jadeite jade produces the highly-coveted apple-green color variety known as ‘imperial jade’.

Both nephrite and jadeite are extremely tough gemstones. So tough, that even a blow from a hammer won’t shatter them. Their durability, along with their musical properties, made them a popular material in ancient China for musical instruments, including chimes, gongs, and xylophones.

Other cultures have also used jade for making tools, weapons, and ornaments, and it has often been buried with the dead since the color green is associated with the heart chakra.

Importance of Jade in Chinese Culture

No guide to jade jewelry would be complete without mentioning its connection to Chinese culture. The Chinese people have an enduring love for jade that traces as far back as the Neolithic era. Furthermore, jade is widely associated with the Chinese Imperial dynasties and the ‘Emperor’, as well as divine harmony. Jade is also viewed as a symbol of purity, grace, and beauty. The most popular kind of jade in Chinese culture is green jade, which has an emerald hue. 

Jade Symbolism in Other Cultures

As mentioned above, the gemstone we all know as jade actually comprises two distinct minerals, jadeite and nephrite. Given that jadeite and nephrite share a similar appearance and durability, it is not surprising that the legends these properties spawned apply to both types of jade. While Meso-American jade mythology developed around jadeite, Chinese and Maori jade mythology developed around nephrite.

This has given rise to a rich body of lore surrounding the gemstone, as well as many different meanings and associations. However, for many cultures around the globe, jade has become synonymous with nobility and wealth. Many also believe that jade jewelry functions like a talisman, offering protection from evil to both the living and the dead. To others, jade will always be the ‘Jewel of Heaven’ and the ‘Gem Supreme’.

Gary Todd, CC0 | Wikimedia Commons

Jade’s Musical Properties

When a thin piece of jade is struck, it produces a clear, tinkling sound. These musical properties, combined with the stone’s durability, have led to the following adage among gemologists:

‘Hit a diamond with a hammer and it will shatter into a dozen pieces. Hit quartz and it will split in two. But hit a piece of jade and it will ring like a bell!’

The Jade Trade

Most of the jadeite that is mined today comes from Myanmar. The jadeite that is produced there is often exported to other countries in Asia to be used in making ornaments, jewelry, and art. The majority of nephrite is produced in British Colombia, Canada

Jade deposits were also found in Siberia, Russia, during the 1800s. Russian jade is frequently associated with the renowned Russian jewelry company the House of Fabergé, which produced the famous Fabergé eggs.

Where To Buy Jade Jewelry

You can find jade bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, and more at select online jewelry stores. Alternatively, if you’re looking to spend a lot of money and happen to live near Manhattan, New York City, hit up one of the local stores. However, bear in mind that online jewelers tend to have wider listings of items and keep more stock than brick-and-mortar stores. Their prices are also typically lower.

Salvador alc, CC BY-SA 3.0 | Wikimedia Commons

However, you need to exercise caution when shopping for jade jewelry items as, unfortunately, not all the online dealers that sell jade jewelry are honest. To avoid being duped into buying fake jade jewelry, only shop at reputable stores, like James Allen and Blue Nile. Retailers that are trustworthy typically provide favorable return policies on their products, so be sure to check these before placing any orders.


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