Chinese Jade: The Complete Guide - China Business Tour (2023)

One of the oldest gemstones in existence, jade is highly prized around the world, but nowhere more than in China. But what makes this stone unique?

jade chinorefers to jade mined or carved in China beginning in the Neolithic period. Chinese carving is mainly made of this hard stone.

Although deep, light green jade is best known in Europe, for much of Chinese history, jade came in a variety of colors, with white mutton fat nephrite being the most highly praised and prized.

Since the beginning of time, indigenous resources in Henan and along the Yangtze have been greatly exploited and depleted; Today, most Chinese jade comes from the Xinjiang province in the northwest.

For more detailed information, keep reading.

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What is jadeite?

The English term "jade" is used to translate the Chinese wordty, which actually refers to many minerals including nephrite, jade, serpentine, and bowenite, while jadeite only refers to nephrite and jadeite.

Nephrite is a white mineral with a chemical composition of calcium magnesium silicate. On the other hand, iron, chrome, and copper give a wide range of colors, from muted gray-greens to bright yellows and reds. A sodium magnesium silicate, jadeite was in much less use in China before the 18th century and has a wider range of colors than nephrite.

Nephrite is found in metamorphic rocks found in mountains. Jade boulders break off and flow towards the base of the mountain as the weather progresses, where they recover. from the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220) Jadeite was obtained from the Silk Road oasis region of Khotan during the (CE) period. The oasis is about 5,000 miles from where the Liangzhu and Hongshan cultures first worked jadeite about 3,000 years ago. (near Shanghai and Inner Mongolia). Probably in the early periods there were sources that were much closer to these centers, and then they were exhausted.

Worn by kings and nobles in life and death.

“Soft, smooth and shiny seemed to them kindness; delicate, compact and strong - like intelligence" - attributed to Confucius (c. 551-479 BC)

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Above silver and gold, jade has always been the most valued material by the Chinese. This extremely durable translucent stone has been processed into ornaments, ceremonial weapons, and ritual objects over the years. Recent archaeological discoveries in various regions of China have demonstrated not only the antiquity of the art of jade carving, but also the remarkable level of development it reached at a very early age.

Kings and nobles wore jades, which were buried with them after their deaths. Consequently, the material came to be associated with royalty and high status. He also gained a reputation for being strong after death, protecting the body from decay. These magical properties may have been less clearly recognized in later times, when jade was prized more for its use in costly ornaments and vessels, and for its association with antiquity. Ancient jade shapes and patterns were often imitated during the Ming and Qing dynasties, bringing associations of later Chinese peoples with the distant past.

You can see the subtle variety of colors and textures of this exotic stone, as well as many different styles of carving, from back plates, ornaments, dragon, animal and human carvings, to long smooth Neolithic blades.

Jade Composition

Nephrite, a crystalline calcium-magnesium silicate, has been used as a jade stone in China for thousands of years. Nephrite is usually white in color, but impurities, mainly iron compounds, can cause it to appear green, cream, yellow, brown, gray, black, or mottled. The Chinese used the generic termtyto cover several related jade-like stones, including nephrite, bowenite (a type of serpentine), and jadeite. During the Neolithic period, around the middle of the 4th millennium BC, jadeite from Lake Tai (in Jiangsu province) began to be used by cultural groups from the southeast, while deposits along the Liao River in the northeast ( called "Xiuyan jade", probably bowenite) were used via the Yarkand and Hotan rivers in the modern Xinjiang Autonomous Region of northwest China, where jade occurs in the form of boulders, they have historically been the main source of nephrite in China. Since the 18th century, China has been receiving bright green jadeite from northern Myanmar (Upper Burma).feicuior "kingfisher feathers"), which is a granular sodium aluminum silicate harder than nephrite, but not nearly as hard. Jade is as hard as steel or feldspar, making it impossible to carve or cut with metal tools. Instead, jade must be meticulously drilled, sanded, or sawn with abrasive paste and machines that rotate or perform a repetitive motion, usually after being reduced to the form of thin blocks or plates.

history of chinese jade

Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1046 BCE)

The art of jade carving made great advances during the Shang dynasty, especially in Anyang. Ceremonial weapons and bronze weapon fittings were carved from jade; ritual jades includedbi,kongand rank symbols. Plates and dress ornaments were carved from fine jade plates, but there are also small figures, masks, and round-carved birds and animals, some of which probably represent the earliest examples ofmingqi("spiritual vessels"), artistic figures to replace the buried living offerings to serve the deceased.

Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC)

Jade production in Zhoubi,kongand others The practice of Shang ritual forms continued and their use became standardized. Scepters of various shapes were used in the ranks of the nobility and as a means of power to summon troops, mediate conflicts, declare peace, and other things. The seven holes in the body were sealed with plugs and jade plates before burial. In terms of style, Zhou Dynasty jades initially followed Shang customs, but in the Middle Zhou era they began to turn towards looser, less structured designs, with zoomorphic decorations being replaced by abstract meandering. This disintegration of the formal structure persisted until the end of the dynasty.

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In Dong (Eastern) Zhou, circular carving gained new freedom with the invention of iron tools and harder abrasives. The creation of ornamental jades, mainly in the form of pendants, clothing ornaments, sword fittings, and scabbards, resulted in a wide variety of animals and birds.

Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Nephrites from this period are often difficult to identify due to the archaic form of the Song. Nephrites found in Five Dynasties (907-960) and Song (960-1279) tombs seem to support the idea that ancient vessels, ritual objects, plaques, belt hooks, and ornaments were often adapted to new forms, and that the Warring States and Han (206 BC - AD 220) and their styles were highly regarded. They can only be distinguished from genuine Archaic jades by a playful elegance and a tendency to combine shapes and decorations not usually found together on ancient objects, since jade carving technique changed little during this period. Later, catalog illustrations, rather than a study of actual antiquities, served as the inspiration for the archaic-style jades.

Chinese Jade: The Complete Guide - China Business Tour (1)

Qing Dynasty (1644–1911/12)

Between about 1760 and 1820, China had direct control over the Central Asian jade-producing areas of Hotan and Yarkand, during which time much fine nephrite was transported to Beijing for carving. Jadeite from Myanmar (Burma) arrived in the capital from the second quarter of the 18th century, and "spinach jade" flecked with chromite and graphite was imported from Siberian Lake Baikal in the 19th century. The best Qing dynasty jade carvings are often attributed to Qianlong rule, but carved jade is difficult to date, and several fine works in the Qianlong style have been produced since 1950 at the Beijing Craft Research Institute. Vases with lids and chains carved from a single block, ancient bronze-shaped vessels with imitation of archaic decoration, fairy-tale mountains, and pots on the scholar's desk are examples of objects that probably come from the Qianlong period.

Familiarize yourself with Jade terminology

The definition of jade and the ways to recognize it are numerous and have changed over time. In the past, nephrite jade, which has been mined and highly prized in China for millennia, was mostly mentioned when the term "jade" was used. The chemical differences between Burmese jade carving (mined only since the late 18th century) and Chinese jade carving were discovered in 1863 by the French mineralogist Alexis Damour. Since then, a distinction has been made between jade and nephrite, both referred to as "jadeite".

Nephrite, also known as Ca(MgFe)5Si8O22(OH)2, is a cryptocrystalline mineral rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and hydroxyl. The fibrous variety of the tremolite-actinolite series of minerals belongs to the group of amphiboles.

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Known to the Maori as Pounamu ("green stone"), Nephrite has been used extensively throughout history and has been a valuable raw material for many civilizations. But with a history of 5,000 years, the most significant was in China. Nephrite is now mainly imported from Canada (British Columbia) due to a decline in Chinese nephrite production in the Kulun Mountains of western China.

Sodium aluminum silicate, or NaAl(SiO3)2, is a polycrystalline mineral that belongs to the group of pyroxenes. Jadeite is rarely found in its pure form and is usually found in rocks that contain small amounts of other minerals, most notably cosmochlorine and omphacite.

About 250 years ago, when China still controlled northern Burma (Uru River Valley, Kachin State), jadeite was first brought to China. Jade is still mainly produced in this area.

The pre-Columbian civilizations of the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs used jade, which has also been discovered in present-day Guatemala (Motagua River Valley). Its green hue, which was used in many rituals, was associated with life in general and water, vegetation, especially corn. The fact that the locals valued this green stone so much more than gold intrigued the early Spanish conquistadors.


Originally used to represent spiritual connections or values, jade objects later evolved into representations of power and status.However, jade continued to abound in deliberate iconography and symbolism throughout Chinese Neolithic culture. Jade artifacts often depict celestial beings that were important in facilitating communication with ancestral spirits, particularly during the Eastern Zhou and Shang dynasties.Later, when the Early Western Zhou period began, jade objects began to lose their connection to heavenly powers, and instead began to reflect the status and power of their owners.With this change in use, Chinese culture was redefined and marked an important period in the history of Chinese jade.

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Is jade China valuable? ›

It is this gemstone that is colloquially referred to as Imperial Jade. Historically the Royal Court of China had a standing order for any and all of this material available and today it continues to be one of the most expensive gems in the world.

Is China jade real? ›

Jadeite was first imported to China only about 250 years ago, from Northern Myanmar (Uru River Valley, Kachin State) which was then under Chinese power. Today the region remains the primary source of jadeite.

What is the Chinese most valuable jade? ›

The most coveted – and therefore the most valuable – is a very specific shade of green known as imperial jade. There are other shades of green jade including kingfisher jade, apple jade and moss-in-snow jade.

How many years does jade working in China date back to? ›

During its more than 5,000-year history (table 1), Chinese jade carving has experienced five peaks—the late Neolithic Age (circa 3500–2070 BCE), the late Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE), the Zhanguo Period (475–221 BCE), the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)—and was influenced by poli- tics, ...

How do I know if my jade is worth anything? ›

The most significant value factors for jade gemstones are color, origin, and size. The most valuable jade color is known as “imperial jade” and occurs only in jadeite. Imperial jade is a green balanced between blue and yellow hues. The ideal tone is medium-dark, about 75%, where green hues are optimally saturated.

Which color of jade is most valuable? ›

Jadeite comes in a wide range of colors. The most valuable is an intense green called Imperial.

How can you tell if Chinese jade is real? ›

Take the stone in your hand and see how it feels. Real jade should be cold to the touch and have a dense, solid feel. Fake jade is often made from materials such as glass or plastic which are not as dense as real jade. If the stone feels light or hollow, it is likely that it is fake.

How much is real Chinese jade worth? ›

Jade pricing by unit of measurement
A gram of jade$5 to $7,000
An ounce of jade$140 to $200,000
A kilogram of jade$5,000 to $7,000,000
A pound of jade$2,500 to $3,200,000
2 more rows
May 8, 2023

Where is the best jade in China? ›

The well-known Chinese “four great jades” are “Hetian jade” of Xinjiang, “Xiuyan jade” of Xiuyan town of Liaoning province, “Dushan jade” of Nanyang town of Henan province and “calaite” of Yun town of Hubei province.

How can you tell old jade? ›

Older jades that were polished using soft abrasives will often reveal a slight “orange peel” effect on the surface. And although true jade comes in a range of colors, it will probably not show the sickly yellow-green of certain serpentines or the dull, opaque white of many chalcedonies.

What does gifting someone jade mean? ›

Jade (pounamu) is a precious stone in Maori history and thus has a long-standing tradition of being gifted to others. Throughout history it has been used to seal bonds; whether for friendship, relationships, peace, or to show gratitude and thanks.

Is jade still popular in China? ›

Chinese jade was used as a material for practical and ornamental purposes at an early period in history, and it continues to be very popular today. The earliest Chinese jade is from the early Neolithic period Hemudu culture in Zhejian Province (about 7000–5000 BCE).

What is the difference between old jade and new jade? ›

“New mine jade” is jade discovered in hard rock deposits. “Old mine jade” is boulder jade that has been dragged by glaciers and only the best boulders survive and are of high quality. Terms to describe this jade is watery, ice, glass, not terms you would use regarding B.C. jade.

What color jade should I wear? ›

Green is the traditional and most prized jade color. Jade also occurs in colors like black, white, purple, blue, yellow, red, and orange. All jade shares the same symbolism, but extra meaning can be derived by the color of a stone. Green is for friendship, harmony, and renewal.

Who should not wear jade? ›

In some cultures, wearing jade is a big deal – and not always in a good way. For example, some Chinese people believe that wearing jade can bring bad luck to certain astrological signs, like those born in the Year of the Horse. Others believe that pregnant women shouldn't wear jade, as it can harm the baby.

Does jade go up in value? ›

Some poor-quality variations can be worth only $2 per carat. However, the value rises with the variation, place of origin, texture, and much more, so you may be able to pay as much as $3 million per carat. If you want to buy or sell jade per gram, keep in mind that the price goes from $25 to $5,000.

What does expensive jade look like? ›

The most expensive examples of jade are in so called Imperial Jade color, which is a rich and vibrant emerald green. In order to reach the highest value possible, jade stone must be as pure as possible with no specks of gray or other colors.

What's the difference between jade and jadeite? ›

The term 'jade' is actually a catch-all term that encompasses two separate minerals: nephrite, which is more opaque and traditionally used for sculptural objects and ornaments; and jadeite, which is more translucent and can be polished to a high lustre, making it more suitable for jewellery.

Is lighter or darker jade more valuable? ›

For jadeite, the intensity of the green color, combined with a high degree of translucency are the key factors in judging value. Stones which are too dark in color or not so translucent are less highly valued.

What is the luckiest jade? ›

White Jade has been used with this purpose for hundreds of years. It was considered to be a lucky stone, whether it came to health, love or business. This stone is known for its power to make you feel calm and peaceful. White Jade also has the ability to increase or enhance the energy of love in your life.

What is the best grade of jade? ›

Grade A means that the jade is completely natural with absolutely zero treatment. This is the highest quality jadeite there is. Grade B means that it has been treated by being bleached or soaked in hydrochloric/sulfuric acid.

Does real jade have black spots? ›

Nevertheless, B jade is still real jade and has fully natural colour. This jade variety is known as flower green because the base is pea green and the patches of black inclusions look like flowers. Pea varieties have opaque green and white round spots that look like snow peas.

What does real jade look like under light? ›

Some highly translucent pieces may have a faint glow but a genuine piece of jadeite does not emit light in the dark or fluoresce under Ultraviolet (UV) light. A chemically bleached piece of jade can exude a pale blue-white glow under long-wave UV light.

Does real jade break easily? ›

Maintenance and Care. Caring for a Natural Jade Bangle requires very little. The material itself is very tough and will resist to chips and breaks.

How is jade graded? ›

Grade 1: Many inclusions, most of which are black. Grade 2: Many inclusions, most of which are white, with some black inclusions. Grade 3: Some inclusions, all are white or light coloured. Grade 4: Few inclusions, all white or light coloured.

What are the different types of Chinese jade? ›

There are two types of Jade, nephrite and jadeite. In China, jadeite is now more popular and expensive than the softer type, nephrite.

Where is jade found in the United States? ›

American Jade

Beck states that nephrite has been found at several locations through the United States, including Washington State; specifically Puget Sound and the Darrington area for alluvial float, and Mt Higgins as the main in situ deposit. California also has varieties of jade which are extremely unique.

Which country produces the best jade? ›

Myanmar produces upward of 70 percent of the world's supply of high-quality jadeite. Most of the Myanmar's jadeite is exported to other nations, primarily Asian, for use in jewellery, art, and ornaments.

How do you price jade? ›

A jade stone can cost as little as $5 per carat and dramatically increase to $3M per carat. In terms of grams, the stone price may vary between $25 to $5000. Here is a list of jade prices (in dollars) per different unit: Carat: 5 to 1500.

Who buys the most jade in the world? ›

Hyderabad: Ninety per cent of the world's jade is mined in Myanmar. Myanmar's jade industry is worth billions of dollars annually. Most stones are bought by Chinese traders.

Does jade darken with age? ›

Thankfully, the truth about natural, untreated jadeite jade is that it will in fact not change color over time. Natural jade is impervious to perfumes, oils, and most cold acids.

What happens when jade turns darker green? ›

The intensity of the colour of Jade will only change due to dirt or grease that can sometimes get trapped on the surface, or if the Jade piece has undergone colour treatment, gradually fading to its original state as time passes.

How can you tell if jade is nephrite or jadeite? ›

Jadeite comes in a broader range of colors than nephrite which only comes in green, white, and yellow. However, jadeite mainly has varying shades of green that range between apple-green and emerald. Jadeite's luster appears more oily, while nephrite luster is vitreous or glassy.

What energy does jade bring? ›

Jade is believed to bring luck.

Just like a four-leaf clover is considered a symbol of good fortune, jade is thought to have protective, lucky-charm energy. That's why you'll often see jade statues used in feng shui, and why babies in Asian cultures are often gifted jade bracelets when they're born.

What does jade do spiritually? ›

A protective stone, Jade keeps the wearer from harm and brings harmony. Jade attracts good luck and friendship. It stabilises the personality and promotes self-sufficiency. Soothes the mind, releasing negative thoughts.

How do you activate jade stone? ›

How Do You Activate Jade Crystals? Cleanse your jade crystal to begin the process of activating it. Although the stone does not store negative energies, cleansing it can help you to imbue it with intentional energy and love. Rinse the stone under cool, clean running water.

What are the 11 virtues of jade? ›

Chinese nephrite has long been associated with imperial courts and the stone was so highly valued that Confucius ascribed to it 11 virtues (benevolence, intelligence, righteousness, propriety, music, loyalty, good faith, heaven, earth, virtue, and the path of truth and duty).

What are the 2 types of jade? ›

There are two main types of jade, nephrite and jadeite, and each has its own unique set of properties and treatments. Nephrite jade is the more common of the two types and is typically a softer, more porous stone. It can be found in a variety of colours, but green is by far the most popular.

Why do Chinese want jade? ›

The importance of Jade stone in Chinese culture is reflected in its status as a symbol of goodness, preciousness and beauty. To the Chinese, jade stone is also the embodiment of the Confucian virtues of courage, wisdom, modesty, justice and compassion.

How much is jade worth in China? ›

Jade Price Per Places of Origin
OriginsPrice in dollars per gram
Chinese25 to 5000
Hetian300 to 39000
Burmese750 to 5000
Alaskan50 to 500 (per kilo)
5 more rows
Mar 17, 2023

Why is jade so valuable in China? ›

Jade was prized for its hardness, durability, musical qualities, and beauty. In particular, its subtle, translucent colors and protective qualities caused it to become associated with Chinese conceptions of the soul and immortality. With gold, it was considered to be a symbol of heaven.

How much is jade today? ›

The live Jade Currency price today is $0.001366 USD with a 24-hour trading volume of $5.35 USD.

Which country jade is the best? ›

The finest source of Jadeite Jade in the world comes from Kachin state, Myanmar (Burma). It's also the only commercial source for Jadeite in the world. Other small deposits are found in Kazakhstan, Russia, Japan, Guatemala, and USA.

What is the difference between red jade and green jade? ›

All jade shares the same symbolism, but extra meaning can be derived by the color of a stone. Green is for friendship, harmony, and renewal. Red is for energy, life, and love.

What stone is mistaken for jade? ›

Serpentine is a lovely green translucent, waxy silicate of magnesium. it is often mistaken for various types of jade, and some stones called "jade" are actually types of serpentine. A major difference between the two semi precious stones is that serpentine is softer and less dense than most real jade.


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