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Jade Identification and Buying Guide

Understanding the Differences in Jade

By

Katie Holmes Wearing Jade Hair Ornaments

Katie Holmes Wearing Jade Hair Ornaments

Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images
True jade can be either of two different minerals, jadeite or nephrite, and both variations are tough, high polish stones that don't break or chip easily. We see so much green jade that it's easy to forget the gemstone occurs in other colors.

About Jadeite

Jadeite is the more rare of the two jades, and the most expensive. Most of the world's supply of fine jadeite comes from Burma, but deposits are found in Guatemala and a few other areas around the world.

  • Jadeite occurs in many colors, including green, white, lavender, yellow, orange, black and red.

  • Evenly colored, translucent, emerald green jadeite is called Imperial Jade.

  • Jadeite ranks at about 7 on the Mohs scale, compared to 10 for a diamond.

About Nephrite

Nephrite is more plentiful than jadeite, and that makes it less expensive. The Xinjiang Province in China produced the jadeite traditionally used by Chinese artisans until Burmese jade deposits became available in the 1700's. Nephrite deposits have been discovered all around the world, even in the United States.

  • Nephrite jade is found in fewer colors than jadeite.

  • Instead of a bright emerald green, nephrite greens are often grayish or mottled.

  • Nephrite ranks at about 6.5 on the Mohs scale. Because it is softer than jadeite, finished pieces cannot be as highly polished.

Jade Jewelry Buying Advice

  • Look for pieces of jade with uniform color throughout, although some multicolor pieces are in demand

  • Intense colors of jade are usually the most desirable.

  • Green is the most popular color of jade.

  • Semi-transparent to translucent jade is more valuable than opaque jade.

  • Avoid jade with many cracks or other visible flaws.

  • Finely textured, highly polished jade cabochons and uncarved pieces of the gem are considered the most desirable components for jewelry.

  • Jade is often dyed, but dyeing is not regarded as a permanent treatment.

  • Heat treatments are used to lighten or intensify the color of jade.

  • Most jade is waxed.

  • Color-intensified nephrite is sometimes marketed as jadeite.

  • Dishonest dealers alter and sell dyed quartz and other stones, labeling them as jade -- buy from someone you trust.

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