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See our: jade jewelry.
A name that for many years was generally applied to two distinct minerals, Jadeite and Nephrite (until distinguished in 1863 by A. Damour), having different chemical compositions and other characteristic (although 'jade' is still often used to refer to them indiscriminately).
They resemble each other, both being hard, compact, and usually light-green with white markings ranging to emerald-green, but found in a wide range of colours. Both are too hard to be carved, and are shaped by abrasives rather than cutting tools; large pieces are divided by a taut cord or thin slate charged with an abrasive (as the 'string-cut' jade of Costa Rican Indians). Both varieties have long been used in the Far East, for weapons and tools, and also (in China from the Han Dynasty) for ornaments and (especially jadeite) for jewelry (e.g. beads, bracelets, finger rings, belt hooks, girdle ornaments, hair ornaments, and combs).
Jade was regarded there as at least equal to, if not finer than, gemstones generally; the Chinese and Japanese words signify both the mineral jade and in general all precious stones. Jade was used extensively in Mexico and Costa Rica, but its source has not been identified.
Many other stones have the appearance of jade but vary in colour, lustre, and hardness, and can be readily distinguished, e.g. green serpentine, green chalcedony, bowenite, californite, antigorite, and prehnite, as well as so-called Amazon jade, American jade, Chinese jade, Indian jade, Snowflake jade, Styrian jade, Swiss jade, Transvaal jade, and Wyoming jade.
Jade has been imitated in both glass and plastic, but the stone is easily distinguishable. It has also been dyed to improve its colour or to simulate antiquity, but the organic dye does not penetrate and the colour soon fades.
The name 'jade' is derived from the Spanish piedra de ijada (loin stone), the name given to it by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century based on the belief that is eased kidney pains; and later European physicians called it lapis nephriticus (kidney stone) for the same reason, whence the name for the variety nephrite.
See also: imperial jade
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson