Known in ancient China as the Stone of Heaven and shrouded in myth and legend, jade is one of the oldest gemstones known to humanity.


There are two distinct groups of minerals that are collectively known as “jade” which include nephrite and its cousins, along with jadeite and its cousins. China of antiquity made use of the jade mineral known as nephrite for ceremonial artifacts and jewelry. Jadeite and its bright colors quickly gained popularity much later in history. Jadeite and nephrite belong to two groups of mineral families that grow together in tightly packed or interwoven crystals.

Jadeite or Feicui 翡翠

Historical Chinese nobles, as well as modern consumers are drawn to Jadeite or Feicui (pronounced: fay tsway), which has higher transparency and a wider variety of colors than nephrite, including a kryptonite green known as imperial jade. To distinguish it from historical nephrite jade, gem quality jadeite is referred to by its Chinese name “feicui”. This name refers to the color present in kingfisher bird’s feathers,

some of which have vibrant green and red feathers, and coordinates to the colors of highly desirable feicui. According to Chinese and Hong Kong laws, the name “feicui” legally allows for an intergrowth of jadeite and its cousin minerals, omphacite and kosmochlor. It is important to be aware that many historically important pieces of feicui are not always jadeite dominant, but may have a major component of omphacite in its composition. Some may also call it Burmese Jade, using the former name of Myanmar where the market majority of jadeite is mined, though there are other deposits elsewhere in the world.


The oldest historical jade is a mineral known as nephrite. Burial sites dated back 8,000 years in China have ceremonial objects carved from nephrite. The most expensive color of nephrite is the "mutton fat" or white variety. It may also be known by the name Hetian Jade owing to the famous mines in Hetian, China.



Though Jadeite and Nephrite are different minerals,

they are both similarly “tough”, which is the resistance of a material to cracking or breaking. This is different from “hardness”, which is a resistance to scratching. Jadeite or Feicui may also be known as “hard jade” in some circles, as it is marginally harder than nephrite, and holds a higher polish with a smooth oily luster.

Nephrite is occasionally known as “soft jade”, and has a slightly lower, greasy luster. Despite being slightly softer than jadeite, nephrite is actually tougher than jadeite and was even used as an ax to fell trees in some neolithic societies.



The story of jade in China extends back before the existence of the written word. The Stone of Heaven was used as a ritual tool to communicate with the Divine, both for the living and after death. Jade represented status and power before it was used as jewelry. Even now to many in China it has a magical position, representing luck, protection and prosperity. The vivid green of imperial jade is associated with growth, and wealth. Even the Chinese language has been shaped by this gem, with the character for “jade” (玉) being only one stroke different from the character for “king” (王) . The extreme rarity of jade, particularly in its high grades has given jade a position in far-eastern society similar to the pearl in western societies.



The most prolific producer of Jadeite/ feicui in many colors is Myanmar (formerly Burma). Most of the imperial green jade is mined here.


The historically important mines of Hetian nephrite that produce white and green nephrite are located here, though there are other mines nationwide. China is also the largest consumer market for Jadeite worldwide.


British Columbia produces large quantities of colossal boulders of bold green nephrite for use in the global nephrite trade.


Known to the indigenous Mauri people as “Greenstone”, nephrite jade has been culturally and spiritually important since ancient days.


An important source of high quality blue and occasionally imperial green Jadeite, known to the native peoples long before Spanish conquest. Some would even drill holes in their teeth and implant jade studs.


Russia has a substantial supply of nephrite in Siberia, as well as bright green jadeite in other regions. Difficulties in mining and comparably small sizes of high quality green material have made commercial success of mining unlikely at this time.


The eye-grabbing green and high prices of natural and untreated imperial green jade has led many to seek out ways to imitate premium pieces for profit. This demand encouraged development of the bleaching process that allows jadeite to be treated to remove unsightly stains (Tybe B) or chromium dye process to give low grade pieces a vibrant green imperial color (Type C). Many of these pieces are then impregnated with a polymer to fill in gaps left by acid bleaching.


Similarities in the tiny, densely packed crystal structure of chalcedony and jadeite have led some vendors to chromium dye chalcedony.

This creates a convincing simulant for imperial jade. It is wise to have all high value jade inspected by a lab experienced with jadeite/feicui before purchase.



How the crystals grow together in jade determines how smooth the piece will appear. Some jadeite will appear cottony or opaque, whereas the top quality pieces can have a texture as smooth as glass or freezing water. The smoother the texture and consistency of that texture throughout the piece, the higher the value.

Imperial green jade is by far the most valuable color of jadeite. Combined with its immense rarity, intensely saturated, evenly coloured items can compete with ruby for price.


White "mutton fat" nephrite is the highest value, with green nephrite being plentiful and affordable.


Jadeite occurs at times in large boulders, and the material underneath the weathered skin layer could be anything.

Will there be a vein of glass like imperial green, or will the whole boulder be opaque gray cotton?

This element of the unknown has stirred the appetite of many gamblers, both in official auctions and behind closed doors.

Some stones have a "window" cut into them to assist the guessing game. Others are auctioned "blind" with the skin of the boulder intact. This process has made and ruined the fortunes of many.