For thousands of years, Jade has been considered a “good fortune” symbol, and Chinese people treasured it even as far back as 1950 BC. Under Jade name there are two main types of stones, with different composition – nephrite and jadeite. Its name derives from Spanish “piedra de yjada” (the stone of loin), referring to the tribes of Mesoamerica that used it for pain relief.
In Europe, the first Jade was brought by conquistadors from Mesoamerica. During the seventeenth century, Mesoamerican jade was spare and Chinese jade and later Burmese jade entered the market. However, the stone from China was found to be of a different type, whereas the Burmese stone was similar to the original Jade brought by conquistadors. The Chinese Jade is what we know now as Nephrite, while the original and Burma Jade is named Jadeite. They are both marketed and traded as Jade.
There are also additional varieties of the main types, for example Pounamu, or Green Stone in New Zealand is a vibrant deep green Jade, Imperial Jade is a deep green translucent variety of jade, Chrysomelanite is a dark green jade with black speckles or lines, Russian Jade is the spinach-green translucent form of jade from Lake Baikal in Russia. One of the most expensive types is an Imperial Jade with a rich green hue similar to emerald. While jade has a long history in Southeast Asian art, it had an important presence in Latin America as well, such as in Mexico and Guatemala. The use of jade in Mesoamerica in various rituals was influenced by its rarity and value among Olmec, Maya, and the different other groups living in the Valley of Mexico. Motagua River Valley, Guatemala was the oldest known origin of Jade in the area. Nephrite is found in China, Russia, India, Taiwan, New Zealand, Poland and US. Jadeite is mainly found in Burma, but also in Japan, Russia, Guatemala and some parts of US.
Typically, jadeite and nephrite are formed only in metamorphic rocks within subduction zones occurrences – at the boundaries of tectonic plates. Jadeite deposits tend to occur alongside, or near, faults in serpentinites. There is a high percentage of jadeite deposits and many nephrite deposits that are associated with subduction zones or former collision zones. Jadeite forms at temperatures between 250 and 600°C under pressures of up to 120 km below the Earth’s surface, so it must have originated in subduction zones where plates collided. A similar story is told by nephrite, however nephrite forms in two different ways. The crystals form at temperatures of 100°C to 450°C when there is water present in the mixture. Several nephrite deposits have formed in plate collision zones, but these deposits typically occur where oceanic crust breaks off and settles into sedimentary rocks at the edges of continental plates. During collision zones, sedimentary rocks were crumpled, producing intense heat and pressure that metamorphosed them into serpentinite. As a result, fluids were trapped inside serpentinite, which subsequently transformed portions into nephrite. Nephrite can also form in a very different geologic setting. Dolomitic marble layers were intruded by molten granites, which subsequently crystallized, releasing hot fluids that penetrated the marble layers, creating nephrite deposits.
Nephrite is a calcium magnesium silicate, while Jadeite is a sodium aluminum silicate. Both jadeite and nephrite are polycrystalline materials made from tiny interlocking crystals that are extremely tough. Nephrite is tougher than steel. Jade can be naturally yellow, red, black, green, white, or come in purple hues. Nephrite is only white, deep dark green and brown. They both can be very easily polished and are very durable, being used in the past for manufacturing knives blades and axes.
Its ancestral history and the beauty and strength of jade have contributed to many myths, legends, and superstitions.
According to a famous Chinese proverb, phoenixes only perch on jade stones. Seeing a phoenix on a mountain, a man named Bian He spotted a stone behind the mountain and decided to bring it to his king. The King declared that the stone had no value and cut one of Bian He’s feet off . Sadly, the same thing happened to the next king. During the reign of the next king, Wen, the man brought his treasures once again, but this time he cried at the palace doors for seven days and seven nights. A messenger was sent to find out what caused his suffering. Questioned by the king’s messenger, the man declared that he was saddened with the way the valuable gift he had given the king had been regarded as nothing more than a simple stone. As a result, the king cut the stone, and found the purest form of jade inside.
Culturally, the White Jade Rabbit is also a common symbol, and the various legends associated with it vary from country to country. According to an ancient Buddhist tale, the Jade Emperor disguised himself as a poor, starving old man to beg for food from various animals. An otter fished from a river, and a monkey picked fruit from trees. An white rabbit he encountered, however, could only gather grass. Because grass cannot be used to feed humans, the rabbit sacrificed itself, giving up its body in the fire the man had started. His heart had been touched deeply by the rabbit’s sacrifice, so he sent it to the moon to become an immortal Jade Rabbit.
There are also many legends related to Maori traditions and the Green Stone of New Zealand. A well-known story tells of Poutini who fell in love with Waitaiki – a beautiful woman he saw bathing in the river. As Waitaki’s husband, Tamahua, chased him, Poutini turned her into pounamu, laying her on the bottom of the riverbed at the junction of the Arahura River and Waitaiki Creek. Tamahua cried a great tangi song of grief when he found his wife turned to stone in the riverbed. It is said that in the deep south of New Zealand, you may still hear Tamahua’s song echoed through the mountains.
There is another story of the wrecked Tairea waka, which was swept into the Hohonu river by a huge wave and turned to stone. It is the waka that forms the stone reef of pounamu that is responsible for the stones found in the river.
The sacred stone jade is still revered in China. Several deities, such as Buddha and various gods, were carved from jade, as were the altars of the Moon and Earth. According to Chinese beliefs, grave goods like this stone served the dead.
A variety of musical instruments have also been made from jade, including xylophones, gongs, and wind chimes. A specific ethereal tone is produced when the stone is struck. Such instruments were used in ritual in China, Africa and among the Hopi Indians.
A jade stone has historically been associated with love. A butterfly carved into the pendant was worn to draw love or given as a gift to attract love in China. Women often gave it to men as an engagement gift. In addition, jade was also given to the bride by the groom before the wedding. Males would also exchange jades carved with images of two men as expressions of friendship.
Jade was regarded by the Chinese as having a life-extending power. For this purpose, it was carved into bears, storks, bats as well as other images. Chinese people also used jade bowls for meals because they believed that the stone’s energy transferred into the food.
Amulets made of jade were worn by the ancient Mayans to guard against kidney and bladder diseases.
Symbolism: Luck, Wealth, Abundance, Money, Health, Wisdom, Protection, Gardening, Healing
Jade is traditionally considered lucky and is believed to control the weather. The mist, rain, or snow was brought by throwing it in the water.
Wearing jade while gardening improves the health of plants. Four jade stones buried near the garden’s perimeter are also effective in this regard. It is a Maori tradition to carve Greenstone into ancestral figures with pearl eyes, called hei tiki.
The wearing of jade is generally believed to bring financial prosperity. It is often recommended to hold a jade in your receptive hand before a business decision.
Crystal healing uses Jade to prevent disease and health issues. In particular, it is thought to be beneficial for kidney, heart, and stomach problems. Jade is considered to be a stone of mental strength that facilitates reasoning.
According to pagan religions, jade is worn, carried, or set against the third eye to receive wisdom. As a protective stone, it guards against accidents and mishaps that can be avoided through proper care. During protective magic, it is worn or placed on the altar with purple candles.