Jadeite had been one of the most treasured of all gems since prehistoric times, coveted by early civilizations in Asia, Central America and the South Pacific.   It is the toughest gemstone in terms of resistance to breakage and chipping due a mass of tight, interlocking crystals.  Because of its strength and beautiful colours reminiscent of nature, jade was not only used in tools and weapons by early man but also for personal adornment, even as currency.   Since the 1700’s the Chinese realized there were two distinct varieties of jade, however it wasn’t until 1863 when the varieties were given their respectful names jadeite and nephrite that we know them as today. Jadeite and Nephrite have different physical and chemical characteristics.

Historically, the more common nephrite was the typical jade used by early civilizations such as the famous Chinese and Maori (New Zealand) works of old.  It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the fabled Burmese jadeite was exploited and exported to China from Myanmar (Burma).   Jadeite is not as prized in Australia as it is in countries such as China, largely due to cultural reasons.  As a consequence, very high grade Jadeite does not often find its way onto the Australian market.

Mohs’ Hardness: 6.5-7
Specific Gravity: 3.30-3.58
Refractive Index: 1.640-1.680
Birefringence: .012-0.020
Optic Sign & Character: Aggregate
ICA Code: N, E and T
Treatments: Waxed, bleached and dyed
Incidence: Often
Purpose: To improve and/or alter colour
Durability: Good
Detection: Microscopy and UV
Special Care: Avoid ultrasonic, thermal shock and chemicals
Synthetics: None
Possible Imitations: Plastic, Serpentine and Glass