Jade – a gemstone of unique symbolic energy, and unique in the myths that surround it. With its beauty and wide-ranging expressiveness, jade has held a special attraction for mankind for thousands of years. China, a country with an abundant deposit of jade, is well known in the world for its special art of jade carving. The tradition of the art started early in the Neolithic period and the carving techniques were very unique and advanced. The beautifully carved jades with their deep implications were treasured for their hardness, texture, translucency, and color, characteristics that have been interpreted as symbols of immortality, protection, and virtuous behavior. It has played some special roles in Chinese politics, economy, culture, ideology, ethics and religion that other kinds of art have never reached.
Basically, jade consists of two varieties: nephrite and jadeite. The first, nephrite, which is actually pretty common, is made of soft calcium and magnesium silicate. Interesting to note with nephrite is that usually its value stems largely from the artistry of the particular piece, and not the stone itself. The second variety is jadeite. This usually is the one that commands the high prices more than nephrite because jadeite comes in more vivid green colors and a finer translucency than nephrite jade. Therefore, jadeite is used to make most jewelry, and is composed of a harder aluminum and sodium silicate. Nephrite is found in large or small clumps or seams within larger bodies of non-precious rocks. Such pieces are usually split by weathering from the primary mass of rock in which they occur with the result that small and large boulders of jade are often washed down in rivers and streams.
Revered for its beauty, strength, and ethereal power, jade is known to have been used in ritual ceremonies in China from about 5000 to 1700 B.C. For the ancient Chinese people, jade was very important to daily life, because they thought they could use the jade to communicate with different spirits that inhabited the earth. In other words, for thousands of years, jade has been closely associated with the Chinese culture. Chinese loves it, and believes Jade can bring them peace, luck, wealth, and health. Also it has the power to protect body and spirit for both the living and the deceased. The production of Chinese jade articles was highly developed in the Shang dynasty -- the 16th to the 11th century B.C. In this period Chinese people had mastered the technology necessary to produce type, shape, and size of jade articles. And by the end of the Zhou dynasty -- from the 11th century to 256 B.C., the jade in China reached a second peak in its development. The reason for this is that the craftsmen at this time had more advanced tools as well as more efficient methods of polishing and creating jade masterpieces.
In recent decades, jade, its history, and its trade, has resurfaced to become a prominent and popular topic. Carved ritualistic and ornamental objects continue to play an indispensable role in many aspects of Chinese life. They are an eternal symbol of an ancient civilization.