Jade Engagement Ring Guide
Jade is an elegant choice for an engagement ring stone. Our jade engagement ring guide will show you how to choose the right gem and setting.
8 Minute Read
Why Choose a Jade Engagement Ring?
In recent years, colored gemstones have risen in status in the bridal jewelry industry. Whether from celebrity sightings on the red carpet (like J. Lo sporting a glamorous green diamond) or royal-watching (like Kate Middleton's blue sapphire engagement ring), colored stones are slowly gaining ground on traditional diamonds as engagement ring options. This increase in popularity may represent a generational shift or a growing realization that most diamonds actually aren't rare. Indeed, many beautiful colored gemstones are rarer than diamonds. Jade is one of them.
Jade has been used as a jewelry stone for millennia. This is due to its appealing colors, smooth texture, rarity, durability, and symbolic associations with good health and fortune. These factors still apply to jade today. That's why we believe it's an underappreciated option for engagement rings. But that's changing.
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This article is also a part of our Jade Specialist Mini Course, in the unit How to Choose Jade.
Jadeite or Nephrite?
Jade does have a quirk that makes it unlike any modern gemstone. Unlike diamonds and emeralds, which are individual mineral species, or rubies and sapphires, which are varieties of a single mineral species (corundum), jade gemstones can belong to two completely different mineral species: jadeite and nephrite. Furthermore, jade stones can also occur as rocks consisting of many different minerals. There's a long history behind how jadeite and nephrite became known as "jade." Although jadeite and nephrite may appear similar and both make beautiful, durable gemstones, they have different properties. To choose an engagement ring stone, keep these factors in mind:
- Jadeite has greater resistance to scratching than nephrite
- Nephrite has greater resistance to breaking than jadeite
- Jadeite is more likely to be translucent than nephrite
- Jadeite is much rarer than nephrite and commands much higher prices
As a result, jadeite appears more frequently in fine jewelry pieces, like engagement rings, than nephrite. However, generally, you'll find more nephrite jewelry on the market. For this reason, from this point forward, when we refer to jade in this article, we mean jadeite unless we specifically refer to nephrite.
Is All Jade Green?
Jade is well-known as a verdant green stone. However, jade occurs in a wide range of colors, including lavender, yellow, white, blue, and even black.
Translucent, pure green jadeite from Myanmar (Burma) is known as "Imperial Jade." This is one of the most popular and valuable types of jade. For most consumers, especially in Western nations, imperial jade probably represents the archetypal image of what a jade gemstone should look like.
Nevertheless, other jade colors have their aficionados, too. Lavender jade is the second most popular color. It's easy to see why. It has a soft and feminine appearance, especially when paired with other pink and purple gemstones, like sapphires or tanzanites.
Historically in China, people have prized creamy white nephrite, known as "mutton fat" jade. It remains a traditional favorite among Chinese consumers. However, it's uncommon to see black, white, or colorless ("ice") jade as a center stone in a ring. Instead, you might see these stones as hololiths — jewelry carved from a single stone — as either wedding bands or bangles.
You'll also rarely see yellow jade in fine jewelry. These yellow hues may have an unattractive brownish tinge. Thus, yellow jade appears more commonly in fashion jewelry.
How to Choose a Jade Engagement Ring Stone
In order of importance, here are the three main factors used to evaluate jade:
- Color and tone
- Translucence and clarity
Other value considerations include the shape of the stone, polish, and size.
Color and Tone
Generally, the best jade ring stones will have an electric green color and appear as if they're full of water. Tone refers to the relative lightness or darkness of the color.
Jade's green color comes in many different shades with names like "apple," "mossy," or "flower green." Distinguishing between these terms may be difficult for a layperson. Here are some commonly used terms for green jade color.
|Almost transparent but with weaker color
|Dark Apple Green
|Translucent with overall even color
|Darkish green; somewhat transparent; uneven tone; oily texture on the surface
|Green color with white base; opaque; even color with good contrast
|Light Apple Green
|Lighter green, spotted or scattered color; opaque
|Plain Green Melon
|Heavy texture; scattered color but translucent
Source: Jade for You: Value Guide to Fine Jewelry Jade by John Y. Ng and Edmond Root (Jade N Gem Corp of America 1984) (reprinting the Jade Master Stone Color Chart).
"Imperial jade" is sometimes compared to "emerald green," but this isn't quite accurate. While top emerald color has a slight blue hue, up to 20%, imperial jade is a purer green, balanced between blue and yellow hues.
Examples of Green Jade Color Names
Interestingly, consumers from different cultures prize different jade colors. Buyers in China may prefer darker stones, whereas buyers in the US may prefer lighter or patterned stones.
Texture refers to the appearance of patterns or inclusions in jade that disturb the evenness of its color. These may appear as veins, specks, spots, clouds, or blotches. Generally speaking, the most valuable jade gemstones don't present these. However, some buyers may prize these color disruptions if they're symmetrical and look like an intentional pattern.
Translucence and Clarity
You can judge a jade stone's clarity by seeing how much light passes through it. Can you see light through the stone? If so, the stone is translucent. If this is the case, can you see any veins or inclusions? The best jade stones have a high translucence and a bright green color.
If no light passes through the stone, it's opaque.
Shape, Polish, and Size
The best shape for a jade engagement ring stone is an oval cabochon. Of course, jades also come in other cabbed shapes, including marquises, hearts, and pears. However, the oval cabochon is the equivalent of the round brilliant for a diamond engagement ring stone. It's the standard.
Although the typical consumer doesn't think about polish when purchasing gemstones, you should carefully consider this quality when buying jade. For cabochons, it's the equivalent of brilliance in faceted stones. A very fine, perfectly polished cabochon will reflect light uniformly. This will also create a beautiful luster. There should be no flat spots on the stone.
Like color, jade gemstone size preferences vary across cultures. Consumers in the US prefer larger stones. Consumers in China prefer smaller stones.
Buyer Beware: Unclear Jade Grading Standards
Historically, a great deal of secrecy has surrounded jade grading criteria. This information was passed down from generation to generation within families of jade traders but not shared with consumers.
Now, there's more transparency. Many dealers have generally accepted a grading system that rates jade according to the treatments they receive:
|Natural, untreated jade (jadeite or nephrite); wax coating acceptable
|Bleach and polymer treatments
|Dye and polymer treatments
Be aware that this system has variations, such as the following:
|Natural, untreated jadeite (only a traditional surface wax used for centuries is accepted)
|Bleached and polymer impregnated jadeite
|Bleached, dyed and polymer impregnated jadeite
|Dyed jadeite, no polymer (almost always pre-polymer era)
"A" and "B" type jades mean the same thing in either system. However, a "C" type jade could mean dyed only or bleach, dyed, and polymer treated. Ask your vendors to explain their grading systems.
For fine jewelry, purchase "Type A" or untreated jade only.
How Can You Tell if a Jade has Been Treated?
Consumers may be unable to tell whether a jade gemstone has undergone treatments to improve its appearance or what treatment was used. Even experts can't tell just from a visual examination. Definitive identification requires gemological testing. Only buy an expensive jade stone if it comes with a grading report by a well-known gem lab. Even if the vendor discloses the grade, insist on a lab report.
The Best Settings for a Jade Engagement Ring
Because of jade's excellent wearability, you can wear an oval cabbed jade in almost any setting that can fit an oval gem. These include solitaire, diamond halo, three-stone, bezel setting, antique, or even a completely bespoke setting.
Even though jadeites in other shapes still have great durability, consider using a protective ring setting for any cabbed shape with points, like a marquise, heart, or pear. Protective settings can help keep your valuable gem from accidentally catching on clothing by that point, which could loosen or even remove the stone from its setting.
How to Care for a Jade Engagement Ring
If your engagement ring has a "Type A" (untreated) jade stone, you can safely clean your ring with an ultrasonic cleaner. However, first, make sure any accent gems in your ring are also suited for ultrasonic cleaning.
Don't use an ultrasonic cleaner on a treated jade stone. For these gems, use a soft toothbrush and warm, soapy water for cleaning. Do that once a week, and your jade will last a lifetime. Consult our jade care guide and gemstone jewelry care guide for more recommendations.
International Gem Society
Diana Jarrett GG RMV
Creative writer, author and Gemologist, Diana Jarrett is a graduate gemologist (GG GIA) and Registered Master Valuer.
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