Jadeite and nephrite are two minerals designated before 1863 under the single name jade, a term still used in gemology. These minerals, appreciated for their remarkable hardness and density, have been used in the manufacture of tools and objects of daily use, worship and rituals since prehistoric times. Jadeite is rarer than nephrite and there are only about a dozen mining sites in the world, notably in Myanmar and Guatemala, while nephrite deposits are numerous and spread over all continents.
In Asia, and more particularly in China, jade has been considered the symbol of wisdom, courage and purity since the Neolithic period. It is used in sacred rituals, mainly to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. It became an imperial stone under the Han dynasty, but at that time, and until the 18th century, only nephrite was known and worked in China. Most of the Chinese jades currently on the market come from nephrite veins located in the Xinjiang and Shaanxi regions.See more
Items in emerald green, purple or blue jade called imperial jade are rarer and can fetch very high prices at auction. It is important to ask for an expertise for jade figurines or jewellery to avoid acquiring imitations made of antigorite, a variety of serpentine.
Specialists in Asian antiquities rely on the study of the evolution of the style of Chinese jade to determine the period of manufacture. The estimation of an Asian jade also takes into account its purity and colour, but also the craftsman's ability to bring out the beauty of the veins or the imperfections of the stone.