The Passion of
Jadeite is a possession of great luxury in China, where it is believed that a secret virtue of the gem is passed on to its wearer.
The Spanish learned of jadeite jade from the Aztecs
of South America, who prized it for its hardness and
toughness. Jadeite was discovered in Burma sometime
in the 18th century and it quickly became prized by
Chinese emperors. They called this new material
“Fei Cui,” which referred to the bright green plumage of
the kingfisher bird. Often similar in appearance, for a
long time no one knew that jadeite jade and nephrite jade
were actually two different minerals. In 1863, a French
mineralogist named Damour determined that the stones
called “Fei Cui” were actually a new mineral, which he
Jadeite is a member of a group of related minerals called
pyroxenes. Jadeite occurs in a number of colors including
green, lavender, white, orange, brown and yellow. By far
the most valuable color is a vivid emerald green, which
is often referred to as “imperial jadeite.” Lavender is the
second most valuable jadeite color.
The second most important value factor of jadeite is
transparency. Semi-transparent jadeite is very rare.
A piece that combines semi-transparency with fine
green color is exceptionally rare and valuable. Semitransparent
colorless jadeite is also very highly prized.
Jadeite sources include Guatemala, California (U.S.) and
the “jade land” of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
The finest quality jadeite comes from Myanmar.
Treatment of jadeite includes bleaching to remove
unwanted brown color followed by polymer impregnation.
Artificial dyes and surface waxing can enhance color
and luster of lower grade jadeite. Heat treatments are
sometimes used to produce orange and reddish colors of
jadeite. Jadeite treated in this fashion is called “B” jade.
Jadeite comes in almost every color; the most
desirable colors are green and lavender.