Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Victoria Glover
“The Stone of Heaven”
Photo from Antiquesplace.com and R. Weller/Cochise College
think of this beautiful green translucent stone, our minds wander off to the
elegant figures and jewelry created from China. To the Chinese though, this
precious stone meant quite more to them.
legends, this stone was also known as “The Stone of Heaven”. The Chinese saw
this stone with more value than what one would see. Jade to them held spiritual
value such as virtue, purity, and even beauty. As a Chinese quote goes, “Gold
has a value; jade is invaluable.” Jade was seen as a superior stone, such as how
we see diamonds out here in the Western civilization. The Chinese have valued
this stone also because it is very important with their culture and history.
Confucius once spoke about jade and how it posses eleven virtues. Seeing jade at
such a high spiritual level and being compared to such high values make this
stone highly regarded upon.
also an important material for them to use as well. Starting off being used for
tools because of its strength, it later also became works for arts. They carved
out images, created vases and even used for sacrificial vessels. Not only was
Jade used for materials to be created with, it was also used to create an elixir
which the Chinese believed would give them immortality. By mixing herbs with
powdered jade, some Chinese rulers would drink this elixir in hopes for
immortality. Some writers also included how invincible jade was and one such
emperor had himself buried in a suit of jade strung by gold wires. The Chinese
had great visions of jade and the different outcomes they can use it for.
Chinese jade, it comes in two different forms: nephrite or traditional jade and
Photo courtesy of R Weller/Cochise College
With nephrite, or also
known as traditional jade, the colors vary besides the traditional green we
associate jade with. Due to its composition of being a calcium-magnesium
silicate, it is able to be seen also as other colors that are associated with
nephrite such as browns, yellows, grays and also near whites due to the amount
of amphiboles in its content. The darker hues are due to the iron content and
the lighter colors contain more magnesium rich tremolites. Also due to it’s
name deriving from a Greek word meaning “kidney st one”, this form of jade was
also associated as a possible use to heal kidney stones. This type of jade was
more commonly found in China before Burma began to import jadeite during the
Photo from Phoenix Orion
brought over from Burma during the Qing Dynasty of 1784 and every since had a
growing rate of popularity. Due to its composition of being a sodium rich
aluminum silicate metamorphosed rock, it’s most common color is the green we
associate jade with today. However jadeite also comes in other colors such as
grayish-green, white, different hues of pale blues and purples and even at times
pink and yellow. This type of jade is also said to be stronger than steel due to
the properties it contains.
Photo courtesy of R. Weller/Cochise College
With the two types of Jade, both played an important part in the culture and history of the Chinese. Though mostly this stone was associated with the nobility and higher aristocracy, the people of China still value this precious stone to this day along with all its values that it possesses.