Let’s Talk Jade…

I hope you’ve grabbed your favorite beverage and a comfy chair. It’s time to sit down and talk about exotic luscious jade.

This is the third part of my Faux or Fabulous series. The first was about evaluating family heirlooms, and the second was on shopping for gemstone jewelry with confidence.

A Few Words of Caution

Anyone – even the experts – can be fooled by a good fake. This guide is meant to help you learn to spot the more obvious fakes. When in doubt, always consult your local gemologist.

True Jade

There are so many stones out there being sold as jade that it can get confusing. I’m going to break it down for you here. There are two types of true jade: jadeite and nephrite. Anything else being sold as jade is a misnomer.

Beware Cutesy Names

While shopping, you are likely to encounter a barrage of names for jade, including flower jade, rainbow jade, mountain jade, and candy jade. None of these are actually jade. True jade will usually be sold under the name jadeite or nephrite.

Beware Bright Colors

Many of the stones being sold as jade have been dyed bright colors like fuchsia or purple, and they are sold at crazy low prices. You know right away that these stones are not jade. It would defy logic to take an expensive jade, dye it a bright color, and sell it at a lower price.

Jadeite

Jadeite and nephrite are two completely different types of minerals. Jadeite is a mineral with a Mohs hardness of about 6.5-7 (about the same as quartz.) Jadeite can be found in a variety of colors including vivid green, blue, red, black, lavender, and white. Translucent emerald green jadeite is considered to be the most valuable variety of jade in the world. Burma (Myanmar) and Guatemala are the two primary locations where jadeite is mined.

The stone type that I’ve seen most often imitating jadeite is dyed marble. Sometimes it is easy to tell that the marble isn’t jade by the bright dyed color, but sometimes the color can be fairly close to jadeite, so further testing is needed. 

Nephrite

Nephrite is probably the type of jade you are more familiar with. It is often a medium green color, although it can also be creamy white or light green. It is a little bit softer than jadeite (Mohs hardness 6-6.5). Both jadeite and nephrite have been used to make carved statuary for thousands of years in human history.

Nephrite is sometimes confused with serpentine (Mohs hardness 3-6), which is a much more abundant and inexpensive material. The difference between the two cannot always be made by visual inspection alone.

You can test the hardness of a stone by using a pre-1982 penny. Before 1982, US pennies were made entirely of copper, which has a Mohs hardness of 3. I don’t recommend walking into a jewelry store and scratch-testing their jewelry, but this is a great test if you find a green rock and want to know if it might be jade. If the copper penny scratches the stone, it is definitely not jade. Some serpentine can be a little harder than a penny, so further testing may be necessary to rule out serpentine.

Nephrite hippopotamus carving

Jadeite Mayan mask carving

Shopping for Jade

When a seller tells me that they have real jade, the first question I always ask is, “What kind of jade?” If they say they don’t know, I simply walk away. Sellers who deal in true jade are very familiar with both jadeite and nephrite, and they will be able to give you detailed information. Always remember to ask lots of questions!

Next Time on Faux or Fabulous

I’ll be discussing the warm golden treasure of the Baltic: AMBER. Keep an eye on my blog – it’s coming soon!