What Is Jade? The Difference Between Jadeite And Nephrite

Jade is highly revered in China, with a cultural significance that dates back thousands of years and a value that was cemented by China’s Qing Dynasty emperors. However, much confusion has been created over the use of the name jade. To clarify, most jade items that you may see from museums that seemingly have oriental roots, the ones that do not look like jewelry but more like carvings, these are mostly nephrites. Pictures below are some examples for you to see.

So is nephrite a form of jade? Yes it is. More precisely, jade is a common family name of the gemstone and is further distinguished under two forms: nephrite and jadeite. To help you understand the difference, let’s first take a look at some pictures of jadeite below.

As you can see, typically nephrite is found in shades of white or green and its color is mostly pale and opaque, and not so vibrant and lustre-like compared to jadeite. In fact, what’s special about jadeite is that it can come in a wide range of attractive colors. The picture below illustrates the variety of colors that jadeite may come in.

Owing to the nature of the material, the type of jade that is used for making jewelry is almost always jadeite instead of nephrite. This is especially true for the high end exquisite pieces that you typically may see or hear about at the famous auction houses of Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

In comparison, nephrite is a much more abundant type of material compared to jadeite which is much more rare and precious. Strangely, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) remains the only place in the world that produces high quality jadeite rivalled by none other places. Our article "Where jade comes from?" will go deeper about the roots of jade, to learn more click here for the link.