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.
Jade was considered more precious than diamonds in pre-Hispanic Mexico. This captivating green stone was valued with the same mystical properties in pre-historic Asian cultures. Named the “Stone from Heaven” jade has been prized in both Mesoamerica and China for thousands of years. The earliest jade object found by archeologists in China was a piece of a serpentine jade discovered in the Immortal Cave in Haicheng in the Liaoning Province. This artifact dates back to the Stone Age, more than 12,000 years ago.
How important was jade to the ancient Chinese civilization? The Philosopher Confucius was recorded reflecting on the qualities of this powerful stone. “Soft, smooth and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact and strong - like intelligence.”
Attributed to Confucius (about 551-479 BC).
Called “yu” in Chinese and “ya’ax chin hun” in Mayan, the term “jade” roughly refers to a variety of metamorphic green stones including jadeites and nephrite. It cannot be fully understood by today’s culture of the enormous value attributed to this stone by early civilizations.
Pure white jade was rare and highly valued in ancient times, reserved in hina for Emperors and royalty. When green jade was introduced it then became the favored color by the elite.
Jade was often used as intricate ornaments for the very wealthy and symbolized the noble bearings of a gentleman. There is a Chinese saying: "The gentleman's morals are like jade." Meaning, his comportment is impeccable as jade was prized above silver and gold.
Myths and Lore:
In ancient Egypt and China, jade was used a talisman to promote good luck and strong bonds of friendship. It was also believed to protect the wearer from malevolent spirits and promote a long life. Jade is said to protect the heart, kidneys, spleen and thyroid and in general to strengthen the body.
Symbolically jade was associated with human virtues because of its hardness, durability, and beauty. It was also esteemed by the Chinese for its lovely musical qualities, its delicate, translucent colors, and its purported safeguarding powers.
Since ancient times, songs, poems and stories have been composed about the virtues of jade, playing upon its otherworldly and heavenly qualities.
The most prized form of jade is known as imperial jade and comes from Myanmar. It is a rich emerald green color. Jade most commonly appears in mottled green and white. The range of greens is light to dark, creamy, grayish, and varies according to location. Jade can occasionally be found in the lovely but unusual colors of yellow, pink, purple, and black. Jade is the mystical birthstone for March and for the zodiac sign Virgo. As a wedding anniversary gift it is associated with the 12th, 30th and 35th years.
Although much is known of the multitude of uses of this elusive and beautiful stone over the past millennia, there are still many mysteries remaining which archeologists and historians have yet to solve. While hundreds of carved jade “congs” have been found in numerous ancient sites, dating back many thousands of years, their exact religious significance remains unknown. The square carved on the outside, tubular and round on the inside artifacts are suggested to represent the connection of the earth, (square) and heavens, (round). We still, to this day, say, “the four corners of the earth,” so perhaps we are closer than we realize to solving the mystery of jade, the essence of heaven and earth.
We invite you to look over the vast assortment of beguiling jade handmade jewelry by Stephanie White and see if adding this celestial stone to your wardrobe will create a touch of heaven on earth for you.
Article by: Diane Weisbeck