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Thursday, December 18, 2014


A Brief History of Jade

Nephrite and Jadeite in China

From the earliest times in China, jade was valued as the most precious material above gold, silver or any other stone. The term “jade” is comprises of two different minerals, nephrite and jadeite. Both are extremely hard crystalline rocks formed by metamorphic processes in geological formations. The relatively late arrival of jadeite to China meant that nearly all that is considered as jade in China before the end of the 18th century is nephrite.

Nephrite is frequently found in shades of green, which deepens as the amount of iron present increases. Other colours of nephrite also include brown, grey, yellow, black, creamy white, often described as “mutton-fat”, as well as pure white. It is often opaque or semi-translucent and when polished, the stone takes on a subtle glossy patina.

Jadeite is distinct from nephrite in appearance and texture. It has a spectrum of colours that are generally brighter in tone, from bright apple green, lavender, white streaked with emerald or dark green, pure translucent white, blue, red and black. Jadeite also tends to have a greater translucency then nephrite and is at times partially crystallized. As light penetrates the surface, semi-transparent jadeite can have an alluring brilliance and complexity, making it desirable and often quite expensive.

Throughout history Chinese craftsmen, using innovative design and high levels of technical skills, produced a great variety of objects and works of diverse categories from jade. Often, the stone’s different colours, veins, and shapes were used in the overall design of the object to create stunning effects and intricate details. Jade rings, bangles, bead necklaces, snuff bottles and other personal effects were made for wealthy patrons and the imperial court. Elaborate vessels and censers for ritual or decorative use, in the forms of archaic bronzes, were also produced. Today such works of art are still highly sought after and can fetch high auction results. 

More To Explore

  • A Brief History of Jade
  • Nephrite and Jadeite in China
  • Heber Reginald Bishop's Collection
  • Spotlight On A Philanthropist’s Distinguished Jade Collection
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