Long associated with Chinese culture, jade is an ancient and beautiful gemstone. The characteristic green color of the stone (which can range from very pale, milky green to very dark green) is caused by its iron content. More iron results in deeper green color. This extremely durable stone has been used to make tools and beaded jewelry, along with other objects used for ornamental or spiritual purposes, for at least 7000 years. Fine examples of jade jewelry and artifacts, both modern and historic, have been found all over the world.
Jade and Chinese Culture
It is hard to overstate the prominence of jade in Chinese culture. Traditionally, jade has been thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good health and long life. Jade is thought to possess almost human qualities, as described by Xu Shen in his work, Shuowenjiezi:
Because of the beauty of jade and its spiritual properties, it has been treasured by the Chinese people throughout their history. Jade has been called the imperial gem, and ornamental objects made from jade have been found in ancient royal tombs.
Jade is still popular in China today. Many households own cherished objects made from jade. In addition to jewelry, jade can be fashioned into innumerable things, from hair combs to statues to tea sets. These items are highly valued and often displayed with pride.
Jade and Maori Culture
The Maori people are indigenous to New Zealand. Originating in Polynesia, they traveled the ocean by canoe and arrived in New Zealand around 3500 years ago. They have a rich and unique culture largely centered around artistic and religious pursuits. Jade, called pounamu in the Maori language, is sacred to the Maori people. Found only on the South Island, jade was originally mined for use in tools. Eventually, tribal leaders began to use ceremonial objects carved from jade as symbols of rank. These items were considered taonga (treasure) and were highly valued.
Today, jade is a favored gemstone in New Zealand. It is worked into jewelry featuring traditional Maori designs and symbols. Items made from jade are popular with tourists, and New Zealand residents often wear jade jewelry for good luck when traveling out of country.
Jade in Mesoamerica
Jade has been found in archeological locations throughout Central America. Many ceremonial items made from jade appear in Mayan burial sites. One example is the jade beads often found in the mouths of the dead. Olmecs were especially fond of rare blue jade. Found only in Guatemala, it symbolized water and was important to their religious rituals.
Jade is prized by people around the world. It is strong, gorgeous, and versatile and has great spiritual significance. For more information about gemstones or to see our beautiful handcrafted jade jewelry, please contact us today.