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Article: Jadeite or Nephrite

Jadeite or Nephrite
Crystal Combs

Jadeite or Nephrite

The two crystals can be very difficult to distinguish just by looking at them, as they are very similar. This caused even more confusion when the jade roller and jade Gua Sha started to be more popular and accessible.
The confusion about the word jade and what represented dates back centuries. In 1863 Alexis Damour was the first one who elucidated the mystery and established that the term “jade” actually refers to both Jadeite and nephrite (1). He also discovered that even though they are hard to tell apart, they differ in chemical composition and crystal structure. But back then, the two gems were not found in the same places and fueled, even more, the confusion.
Jadeite is known to be a sacred gemstone in China, but it was not introduced until after 1800, from Myanmar. Before this introduction, all jade in China was nephrite jade from all 4 large mining areas. Depending on the area they were found, jades had different names such as Dushan jade from the Dushan area of Henan province, Hetian jade from the Hetian area Xinjiang province, Xiuyan jade from the Xiuyan area of Liaoning province.
When the Chinese encountered the Jadeite brought from Myanmar, they thought of it as a new form of jade, a 5th one and named it Kingfisher (feathers) jade. . Some ancient papers show that Chinese nephrite was known as soft jade while the Jadeite was mentioned as hard jade.
In Europe, there were also a recorded history of these gems. The first word dates back to 1565 in one Spanish writing, mentioned as “piedra ijada” or “loin stone” because of its reputation for curing illnesses of the loins and kidneys (2). The word also appears in French as “l’ejade”, then appears in English writings as “jade”. As you can see, at that time, there was no clear geological definition of the word jade. But what is clear to see, is that the two gems were viewed as one and the Chinese would have agreed with this.

In China Dushan Jade (a form of nephrite jade) has been mined since 6,000 BC. The famous Jade rollers and Gua Sha have always been made from nephrite jade, mainly for practical reasons because the Jadeite was not available until more recently. Moreover, Jadeite is much harder than nephrite, so it is more difficult to carve and more prone to shattering. It is also much more expensive. Therefore it is generally reserved for beautiful pieces of jewellery.
Brands and merchants will continue to argue about the difference between them, which one is more valuable and real, but as we demonstrated above, both of them are genuine and have been around since the word was first invented. 
Times change and people are more and more inventive, always finding new ways on how to make money out of gems. A friend of mine works in the jade industry in China, and he recently told me a story about this. Apparently, in some parts of China, you can bet on your ability to identify a piece of genuine Jadeite and gamble on it. Some people have lost incredible amounts playing this game. I like this story because it shows that even though times have changed, at some level these debates still rage.
Think you could gamble on your ability to identify jade? Try guessing which stone is featured in the image attached to this blog?
Leave your answers in the comments, and we will let you know.

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The White Lotus Gua Sha
Watch a Video of Nephrite Jade Mining in China
What is False Jade
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1. "Jade, greenstone, or pounamu?". Retrieved 11 November 2018
2. Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-03-07.
3. Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy. Pre-Columbian Jade from Costa Rica. (1968). André Emmerich Inc., New York

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