“Behind the Gems” is a long-running monthly series that takes you on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of our signature collections.
This week, it’s time for another gemstone. Or, more exactly, two precious minerals that share the same popular name…
Jade: Composition, Origins and Appearance
Jadeite and nephrite are both silicates and they are both popularly known as jade. But their mineral structure is actually distinct: nephrite is a calcium magnesium silicate, while jadeite is a sodium aluminium silicate. The result of this is a resemblance in appearance and texture, but a difference in colour range.
And while deposits are spread all around the world, the most famous origin is Myanmar, because that is the only source of the rare imperial jade. Its specific green colour comes from small amounts of chromium inside the stone, making it the rarest and most valuable form of jade. Good examples of this gemstone sell for millions.
Other varieties of jade are valued based on their translucency - the fewer internal faults, the better. But exceptions do occur if the mottling inside the stone creates aesthetically pleasing patterns.
Jade: History and Symbolism
The etymology is linked to the perceived usefulness of the gemstone in treating kidney disease. As such, nephrite comes from the Greek nephros meaning ‘kidney’, while jadeite is derived from the Latin ilia meaning ‘flanks’ or ‘kidneys’ and the more recent variations l’ejade or piedra de ijada, in French and Spanish.
Looking back to Antiquity, the gemstone was especially popular in China. Yu, the character for jade, actually dates back to 2950BC and is one of the oldest in written Chinese.
Carved into a flat round disc with a hole in the middle known as bi, jade represented heaven or sky and was assigned a cultural or ceremonial function.
In New Zealand and Central-South America, indigenous tribes used to carve ritual ornaments and deity masks out of it, while elsewhere in the world, jade was thought to bring clarity and represent nobility of character.
Our Jade Pieces: The Backstory
We started out with lavender jade, a variation that gets its purplish hue from trace amounts of manganese in its structure. One of the rarest forms of jade, it is thought to bring inner peace, to soothe the soul and to connect the wearer to their inner selves.
Captivated by its subtle lavender mottling, we decided to pair it with yellow gold for contrast and to create a luxurious pair of dangle earrings. We used the finest setting possible (only a hook on the top of the jade) to allow the stone to move unencumbered and to be seen in all its splendour.
We loved the earrings so much that Esther kept the original pair for herself! But don’t worry, additional pairs can be made to order. Please email us for details.
Up next, a pair of white jade earrings that we will be finishing in the next few months. Keep an eye out.