Originally prized for its toughness and used in tools and weapons by prehistoric man, jade has a long and storied history. It has been known as the "royal gem" in China for 5000 years, and it was once valued more than gold by the Mayans and Aztecs. The name "jade" is derived from the Spanish "piedra de ijada" or loin-stone. It was thought to have medicinal powers to heal kidney ailments. Jade is most often cut with a smooth surface, though faceted jade is available. A translucent stone, jade is favored for animal carvings, beads, and cabochons. It is also often with pearls, owing to their popularity in Asian jewelry design.
Jadeite and nephrite are two different minerals that are both considered genuine jade. Nephrite is the more common of the two and may range in color from dark green to grey-green. In some instances it can also be white, reddish or yellowish. Jadeite, which is rarer, is usually green but also includes white, pink, red, violet, black and brown hues. It's normal for jade to contain streaks and other blemishes. These are not necessarily considered flaws; in fact, some of the patterns created are considered to add value to a piece.
Thought to symbolize purity and virtue, jade is an ancient stone known for its promotion of wisdom and balance. It is a healing stone that has been used for health and longevity.
Jadeite has a Mohs hardness rating of 7. Nephrite has a Mohs hardness rating of 6.5.