Jadeite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information
One of two distinct minerals commonly known as jade, jadeite is the rarer and harder variety. Rich emerald-green jadeite, known as “imperial jade,” is also the most highly valued. However, durable jadeite can be found in many colors and is well-suited for both intricate carvings and cabochons.
The value of a jadeite carving is as much a function of artistry and antiquity as the color and quality of the material itself. Jadeite is a very specialized gemstone, and evaluating these pieces is complicated. Its appeal is largely collector based. The finest jadeite originates from Myanmar. (In October 2016, the US lifted its embargo on jadeite from Myanmar).
Historically, China has had a great admiration for jadeite. Today, it remains the strongest market for this gemstone.
For more detailed information on evaluating jadeite, consult our jade buying guide.
The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.
|Is a Variety of||Jade|
|Alternate Common Names||Jade|
|Crystallography||Monoclinic. Crystals very rare and tiny, usually granular with tough, interlocked crystals: fibrous; as alluvial boulders and pebbles.|
|Colors||Colorless, white, all shades of green, yellow-green, yellowish brown, brown, red, orange, violet (mauve), blue (rare), gray, black, purple.|
|Polish Luster||Vitreous to greasy.|
|Specific Gravity||3.25-3.36, usually 3.34+|
|Luminescence||Pale colors may show dim white glow in LW. No reaction in SW. X-rays may give intense blueviolet glow in pale yellow and mauve stones.|
|Enhancements||Dyeing, bleaching, acid treatment, wax impregnation, polymer coatings. See "Enhancements" below.|
|Special Care Instructions||None|
|Transparency||Opaque to translucent.|
|Absorption Spectrum||Jadeite has a distinctive spectrum useful in identification. There is a strong line at 4375 and weak bands at 4500 and 4330. The 4375 line is diagnostic but may not be seen in rich, deep green material, which has a chromium spectrum: strong line at 6915, weak at 6550 and 6300.|
|Optics||a = 1.640, β = 1.645, γ = 1.652-1.667. Shadow edge usually 1.66. Biaxial (+), 2V = 67°.|
|Etymology||From jade. The term jade comes from the Spanish piedras de ijada, “stone of the loins.” Jade was believed to heal kidney ailments.|
|Occurrence||Chiefly in serpentine derived from olivine rocks. Also as alluvial boulders.|
Since prehistoric times, people have made jewelry, decorative objects, and even weapons from jade. There are many legends and strong cultural associations with jade gemstones. The Chinese sage Confucius compared jade to a gentleman esteemed by all for his qualities. The Chinese have traditionally valued jade for carving as well as religious and medicinal purposes.
The Olmecs, Maya, and Aztecs of Meso-America made ceremonial objects and jewelry from jadeite. They valued this material more than gold. The Aztecs characterized eloquence as “a scattering of jades.”
The Maori of New Zealand created weapons from jadeite as well as heirloom ornaments called hei-tiki.
What is the Difference Between Jade and Jadeite?
Until 1863, mineralogists considered the material known as jade to be a single mineral. In that year, the French mineralogist Alexis Damour discovered that what had been called jade were actually stones of two distinct mineral species: jadeite and nephrite. However, the Chinese had already distinguished two types of jade more than a century earlier. Yu was the jade material they had traditionally carved (nephrite). Fei-ts’ui was the intense green jade material that began to enter China from Burma (Myanmar) in the mid 18th century (jadeite).
Although jadeite and nephrite have similar outward appearances, they have different internal structures and properties. Gemologists should distinguish between these materials. Nevertheless, most people commonly refer to both minerals as jade without further distinction.
Jadeite can occur naturally in many colors, but green enjoys the greatest popularity. “Imperial jade” of deep green color from Myanmar is very rare and expensive. It’s sometimes called Yunan or Yunnan jade, and translucent material is highly prized.
Apple green and lavender or mauve colors are also popular.
Green jadeite boulders may have a brown skin due to weathering. Lapidaries often use these for carvings. The colors in such stones can sometimes have a mottled look. Jadeites in crystal form are very rare.
This vug of massive jadeite also contains rare crystallized, light-green jadeites about 0.8 cm long. Russian River, Mendocino Co. California, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
|Green Jadeite Color Terminology|
|Apple Green||New Mine or Flower Green|
Seldom seen in jewelry, chloromelanite is an opaque, dark green to black jadeite. Nevertheless, lapidaries occasionally carve it into decorative objects.
Jadeite belongs to the pyroxene mineral group. It can combine with other minerals from this group in solid solutions. Jadeite may be present in these blends, but they aren’t always described as jadeite varieties.
Maw sit sit is a rock found only near the Myanmar village it’s named after. It has a dark green color with black spots and green veins. Some specimens contain jadeite, kosmochlor (sometimes called ureyite), albite feldspar, and other minerals.
Omphacite may contain jadeite, augite, and aegirine.
Stone made almost entirely of jadeite is called jadeitite.
Jadeite has a distinctive absorption spectrum useful in identification. It has a strong line at 4375 and weak bands at 4500 and 4330. The 4375 line is diagnostic but may not be seen in rich, deep green material, which has a chromium spectrum: strong line at 6915, weak at 6550 and 6300.
Jadeite has been synthesized in the laboratory. The results have refractive index, specific gravity, absorption spectra, and fluorescence similar to natural stones. They have greater hardness, up to 8, and color and texture differences, however. Proprietary to General Electric, these synthetics aren’t commercially available.
However, many simulants or imitations appear on the market. Some natural gemstones that may be passed off as jade are calcite, green idocrase (erroneously referred to as “American jade”), aventurine (erroneously referred to as “Indian jade”), serpentine (erroneously referred to as “Korean jade”), and green hydrogrossular garnet (erroneously referred to as “Transvaal jade”). You may even encounter green-dyed marble sold as “Mexican jade.” See our list of false or misleading gemstone names for more examples.
Glass and plastic can also be used to simulate jade.
Gray material can be stained to resemble “imperial jade” or dyed to take on a mauve color. Bleaching, or acid treatments, and wax impregnation are occasionally used to improve color and luster. Polymer coatings are stable treatments.
Notable gem-quality sources include the following:
- Myanmar: source of “imperial jade.”
- Guatemala: rare blue stones.
- Russia: apple green-colored material at some localities; also fine translucent, Cr-rich material at the Kantegir River, West Sayan.
- Bursa, Turkey: purple Turkish jade, a jadeite/quartz rock, unique to this location.
- San Benito County, California: lenses and nodules in chert, various colors, also mixed with nephrite.
- Japan; Mexico; New Zealand.
Jade pieces are very tough. Although not the hardest stones on the Mohs scale (which only measures resistance to scratching), they have great resistance to breaking and excellent wearability. Natural, untreated stones may withstand mechanical cleaning. However, acid treatments can create cracks in an otherwise very durable material. Not sure sure if your jewelry or carving has received treatments? Stick to warm water, detergent, and a soft brush or have your piece examined by a gem lab. Consult our gemstone care guide and gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.