The term Jade refers to two minerals: jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite, the kind of Jade found in Guatemala, is harder than nephrite jade, commonly known as “Chinese Jade”. Jadeite also has a wider variety of colors, ranging from white, different shades of green, lavender, orange, yellow, light blue to the rare black.
Because of its higher translucence and greater variety of colors, jadeite is generally more expensive than nephrite. But how can you differentiate jadeite from nephrite and other stones or fakes?
1. Ask if the stone is a jadeite or nephrite mineral. Jadeite is the more expensive form of Jade and although similar in resemblance and hardness, jadeite and nephrite differ in their colors and chemical compositions. Jadeite has a wider color range whereas nephrite is mainly shades of green and white, yellow and red. Jadeite is more rare than nephrite so it has more value.
2. Test the hardness using specialized equipment. The hardness of various minerals is often measured on the Mohs scale, devised by the German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs in 1812. On this scale, nephrite usually registers at between 6 and 6.5. In comparison, jadeite tends to be slightly denser and harder, measuring up to 7 on the scale.
3. Examine the fibrous structure. Experts with the right equipment are able to tell nephrite jade from jadeite jade by looking at the specific fibrous structures of the minerals. Nephrite has a looser interwoven filtrons structure and, when fractured, can splinter or grain. When looked at under a powerful microscope, however, jadeite has a much tighter interlocking granular structure, which explains its extra toughness.
4. Hold the piece of jade up to a strong light and look for flaws. If you don’t see any, it’s a fake. Because jade is a natural stone, it will have natural cracks and veins that will be clearly visible.
5. Examine the color. It should not be pure or translucent, but cloudy and opaque. Real jade is not uniform in color, fake jade is. In special cases, color can be uniform and translucent.
6. Examine the texture by running the edge of a fingernail across the jade surface. You should feel tiny little cracks and variations in the surface of the piece. These are not considered damage because the cracks or “cleaving veins” occur naturally in the stone. If the surface is perfectly smooth, the jade is most likely artificial.
7. Hold the piece of jade in your hand. It should feel cool to the touch. Warm it up until it reaches your body temperature and put it down. Pick it up again in 30 seconds. If it is cool again, it’s probably real. If it’s glass, it will still be warm to the touch.
8. Look for a crystalline structure. Jadeite and nephrite sometimes have a crystalline structure that is visible to the naked eye. If you can’t see a crystalline structure, examine the stone under magnification. Soapstone does not have a crystalline structure.
9. Look at the surface of the stone. Jadeite and nephrite are shinier with a harder looking surface. Soapstone looks softer and has less of a sheen. Because waxing is an acceptable way of finishing jades, soapstone can sometimes look as if it has a hard surface.
10. Examine the stone for signs of scratching. Though jadeite and nephrite can also scratch, especially if they have been waxed, you should not see many signs of wear on jadeite or nephrite.
TIPS WHEN BUYING JADE JEWELRY
1. Choose a stone with intense colors. Jade comes in many colors including various shades of green, lavender, yellow, red, white and even brown and black. Green, however, is the most popular color. The more expensive stones have a brighter green hue.
2. Buy high-quality jade, that is in its natural, untreated state. The color is considered natural because the stone hasn’t undergone any artificial treatments.
3. Look at the stone. Fine jadeite and nephrite can be translucent, although they are not always.
4. Look at the price of the piece. A fine jade of between 1-1/2 and 2 inches in height can cost thousands of dollars. If the price is low, the jade may be dyed, altered or made from a different material like soapstone.
5. Don’t rely on color. Although jade is often thought of as green, both jadeite and nephrite come in a wide range of colors.
6. Don’t buy jade just because the color “looks right.” Poor-quality dyed jade can fool you into a purchase, but will lose its color and value in a matter of a few years.
7. Color, color intensity, color distribution, clarity, transparency and texture are qualities that determine the value of the stone. Imperial jade with a deep color that shines through at the edges commands the highest prices. Matched stones can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
8. Jade’s toughness is one of its defining qualities. Many varieties are harder and tougher than steel. This toughness makes jade an ideal gemstone for everyday wear, as you do not have to worry about it getting easily ruined. As with any gemstone, the quality of the jade is reflected in its price. In some instances, the highest quality of jade can be even more expensive than diamond.
9. When purchasing jade, always be on the lookout for treated jade. Once jadeite jade has been treated by dying, bleaching or any other treatment techniques, the jade’s structure can be compromised, leaving your jade brittle, dull or even cause it to leak acid or dye.
10. To be sure you’re getting quality jade, ask for a certificate of authenticity. The only way to be absolutely certain is to have the jade tested at a gemological institute.
11. Jade is sold by the piece instead of by the carat as other gems. The value of jade is based on its color, the depth of the color and its translucence. The rarest colors, the most intense colors and the most translucent pieces command the highest prices.