Introducing the Jade (Yu)
Jade has always been the material most highly prized, even above silver and gold. The former Kingdom of Khotan (today the area in Xinjiang Autonomous Region) used most precious white jade for yearly tribute payments made to the Chinese Imperial court. Chinese jade appears in nature in a great variety of ways.The jade carving industry in China now uses 30 types of jade and precious stones including nephrite, jadeite, lapis lazuli, turquoise, agate and malachite. The majority of Chinese jade is used to make jade articles and objects, with small amounts of best quality jade set aside for jewelry manufacture. Jade carving is one of the highest achievements in Chinese handicrafts. In ancient China, jade was revered and used as ritual objects notably for Buddhist figurines.
For thousands of years, the carving of jade has been an intrinsic part of Chinese culture. The history of jade in China can be dated back to the Shang Dynasty (16th century-1066 B.C.) when jade was used as a medium of exchange. Traditionally, Chinese people thought jade is the most precious stone, a sacred material that containing the quintessence of virtue. In the early times jade was confined to ritual purely ornamental objects such as the jewelry, dress accessories and items of personal adornment. In imperial times jade was regarded as a symbol of wealth and rank. It is widely believed by Chinese people that jade transmits its superior qualities to the one who wears it, wards off the evil and protect the wearer from misfortune. For this reason, jade bracelets are given to the children as an auspicious gift.
Jade’s basic color is white with a colorless opaqueness and a waxy like appearance. The variation of the colors comes from trace elements (i.e. iron, chromium, magnesia, calcium) within the stone’s chemical formula, creating a color range from various shades of apple green, bright green and spinach green, delicate violet tones, brown, grades of white, grey, red, reddish and brown tones, shades of blue to black, yellow, and orange. Generally speaking, the value of jade is determined according to its color and the intensity of it, the luster, texture, clarity and transparency. Jades often have veins, blemishes and streaks running through them, though these may not always be regarded as flaws. On the contrary, some of these patterns are considered particularly valuable. The so called ‘imperial emerald green’ color of the gem stone is the most expensive one. Because of the color range, jade has always been a perfect gem stone.
Jade is strictly speaking a generic term for two different gem stones, nephrite and jadeite, but the two gem stones share many qualities, such as the hardness of the stone, the appearance and its associated symbolism. Jade cannot be carved. Because of its hardness, it is said jade’s character is harder than steel, it can rarely be shaped by chipping, but must be worn away by abrasion with tools and hard sand pastes. This is a process that requires immense patience; even with modern tools it remains laborious. Because the process is so labor-intensive and time-consuming; and the stone is so hard. Jade symbolizes certain qualities and was embodied with human virtues: hardness, durability, constancy, purity, energy, grace and beauty. Jade reflected the ability of the ruling elite to command resources, and therefore came to symbolize power, nobility, status and prestige as well as immortality and hence linking humans (especially higher ranking ones) to the spiritual world. The mouthpieces of some opium pipes were made out of jade, due to the belief that breathing through jade would bestow longevity upon smokers who used such a pipe.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Gold Medals were made of gold and had an inlay of white jade on the back, symbolizing nobility and virtue, the embodiment of traditional Chinese values of ethic and honor. In China jade is still seen as containing properties that promote good health, good luck and protection. For gemstone therapy believers, jade could stimulate creativity and mental agility, having a balancing and harmonizing effect.
Jadeite, also referred to as soft jade, is a variety of pyroxene, sodium and aluminum silicate, composed of interlocking and very compact crystals. Jadeite is rarer found than nephrite. Jadeite shows more color variations, including white, grey, blue, green, lavender-mauve, yellow orange, reddish, pink, violet, brown and black. Translucent emerald-green jadeite is the most prized and most expensive variety of jade. Mostly jadeite shows light to dark green. Polished jadeite has a glassy, vitreous and vivid luster.
Nephrite jade is also referred to as the hard jade. Nephrite, a variety of mineral actinolite, is a calcium and magnesium silicate, composed of fibrous intertwined crystals. Compared with Jadeite, nephrite is less expensive, since it is more widespread. Nephrite shows mainly the color variation: creamy white, slightly yellow, grey, green, and at times topaz, reddish and black. Nephrite's robustness is due to the fact that it contains the mineral tremolite. Polished nephrite has a surface with a resinous luster, opaque at times.