The Passion of
Nephrite symbolizes a connection between the living and the dead as well as power, wealth and elevated social class.
Discovered in China around 5000 BCE nephrite jade continues
to be treasured worldwide. The name jade comes from the
Spanish “piedra de ijada,” which means stone of the loins. This
is due to the belief that it could cure ailments of the kidneys.
The alternate phrase, “piedra de riñones,” translates to “lapis
nephriticus” in Latin, which was the root of the word nephrite.
The Chinese called this stone “Yu” which could refer to any
green stone that possessed the “virtues of Yu.” According to
Confucius, these virtues included a compact and fine texture,
extreme toughness and high hardness, and a smooth and
glossy luster. Due to its interlocking fibrous structure, nephrite
is the toughest gemstone known. This toughness is why
nephrite was often used to fashion tools.
Nephrite jade is a member of a group of related minerals called
amphiboles. Its colors are green, black and a creamy white
that the Chinese call “mutton fat.” The “mutton fat” is the most
desirable type of nephrite jade and is highly sought after by
collectors. The green of nephrite is sometimes referred to as
a “spinach” green.
Nephrite is translucent to opaque. It is never transparent
or even semi-transparent. The fibrous structure is
the reason for nephrite’s extreme toughness and also
contributes to its opacity.
Nephrite has been mined in China for thousands of years.
It is also found in Russia, Canada and New Zealand.
Russia and Canada are the largest suppliers of nephrite in
the world market today. New Zealand is also an important
source where the Maori refer to it as pounamu. Pounamu
is considered treasure and plays a very important role in
the Maori culture.
Carvings made of nephrite jade are often rubbed with wax
to improve the surface luster. Other than that, nephrite
is seldom treated. It is possible for it to be dyed or
impregnated but this is rare.
The carving of nephrite has a history
that goes back thousands of years.
Carved nephrite (jade) jar with cover with gold and stone inlays. Dated 18th-19th century Mughal period (1526-1858) or Qing dynasty (1644-1911), India.