Even today jade is frequently associated with the Chinese Dynasties of yore, and still conveys its legacy as the official Imperial Jewel. Emperors were buried in a head-to-toe jade suit that was believed to ensure safe passage into the afterlife, and even before the Dynastic cycle, as far back as 3000 BC, the Chinese recognized the exotic lustre of jade as an elegant and distinguishing gemstone ornament. What many people don’t realize today, however, is that jade was actually used even earlier than that: in 7000 BC it was prized by many cultures for its immense hardness, and used commonly for knives, axe heads, and other tools.
As time progressed, jade came to particular prominence in Chinese culture but was also incorporated into fashion and utility by the Maoris of New Zealand, the Aztecs, the Egyptians, and the Japanese. Its name comes from the Spanish term piedra de ijada, which means “loin stone” in reference to jade’s historical reputation as a healer of kidney ailments. Piedra de ijada was transliterated by the French as jade, which in English then became simply “jade” as we know it today.
So what’s all the fuss about? We don’t often make axe heads out of jade anymore, but it is still becoming more and more popular all over the globe. Because of its wonderfully striking waxy shine, and its deep range of provocative hues, not to mention its own history and culture, jade of all sorts is hunted by specialized collectors far and wide. Its trademark surface patterns are often seen not as imperfections, but rather as an integral part of its sophisticated and challenging visual personality. For this reason, it is frequently cut and polished into cabochons or given facets to highlight its opaque complexity. Its structural consistency makes it a classic favourite for gemstone carving artisans, but its immense hardness ensures that jade carving must be the work of a deliberate, meditative, and highly skilled artist.
You certainly don’t have to be a dedicated jade professional to enjoy it, however, and jewelry designers and enthusiasts love its mix of ancient appeal and contemporary cool. Where modern design meets an age-old cultural treasure, the evidence of a truly timeless gemstone is demonstrated on the necks, wrists, and ears of today’s ultra hip.
Jade has historically been thought to inspire creativity, instill feelings of happiness, foster good luck, and offer physical protection for its wearer.
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Watch our video featuring Dyed Green Jade.