spinach jade - jade color trade names
Polar bear mother and cub figurine carved from spinach jade. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers.

Jade Color and Value

Jade is an umbrella term that encompasses two different silicate minerals: jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite is the rarer variety and fetches the highest prices. Nephrite occurs more abundantly and usually has more affordable prices. Both types of jade can come in green, red, black, gray, brown, yellow, and white/cream colors. Jadeite can also show lavender, orange, and blue hues. Popularly associated with jade, green colors usually command the highest values. However, every color has the potential for beauty.

brownish red nephrite cabochon
Brownish red nephrite cabochon, 7.46 cts, 14.90 mm x 12.85 mm, Myanmar. © Rob Lavinsky, mineralauctions.com. Used with permission.

When grading color, gemologists break down jade’s color into three components: hue, tone, and saturation.

  • Hue reflects the basic colors we see. When most people discuss “color,” they’re actually referring to hue.
  • Tone refers to a gem’s relative lightness or darkness.
  • Saturation refers to the hue’s intensity.

The rarest and most valuable specimens of each color display a single, evenly distributed hue. However, most jade stones show some variation called “mottling” and can even have intermixed hues.