Cochise College           Student Papers in Geology

Geology Home Page                   physical geology  historical geology  planetary  gems           

Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Victoria Glover
Physical Geology
Fall 2009

“The Stone of Heaven”
Chinese Jade

Photo from and R. Weller/Cochise College


When we 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.

Coming from 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.

Jade was 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.

With the Chinese jade, it comes in two different forms: nephrite or traditional jade and jadeite.

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 Qing Dynasty.

Photo from Phoenix Orion


     Jadeite was 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.