jade toughness - nephrite axe, Neolithic China
Ritual ax, nephrite (15.6 x 9.8 cm), China, Neolithic, late Dawenkou–early Longshan culture, 2400–1900 BCE. Purchase, Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Gift and Rogers Fund, 1991. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

Why is Jade so Tough?

Both jadeite and nephrite are polycrystalline aggregates made of fine, microscopic, and densely interwoven crystals, either mineral grains (jadeite) or fibers (nephrite). This interlocking structure gives jade its toughness and outstanding workable properties. Even under extreme stress, it doesn’t break or deform easily. In prehistoric times, this made jade preferable to brittle flint and obsidian for tool use.

Is Jade Tougher Than Diamond?

In terms of hardness, jadeite and nephrite come in at 6.5-7 and 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale, respectively. This means jadeite can have excellent resistance to scratching since its hardness could equal that of one of the most pervasive environmental hazards: household dust (7). On the other hand, nephrite is susceptible to scratches.

Diamond is famously the hardest natural material, ranking 10 on the Mohs scale. On this scale, a 10 is actually almost four times harder than a 9, which is two times harder than an 8, which is two times