Diving for Jade

California Nephrite Jade

Information about Jade



There are two minerals legitimately called Jade:  Nephrite and Jadeite

Nephrite was used in Ancient Chinese carvings through the 1780s. 

In the 1780s a "new jade" was introduced into China from Burma. 

This new jade was jadeite.  Brilliant green jadeite is called Imperial Jade.

  • Nephrite Jade Properties:
  • Spot Refractive Index: 1.61 to 1.62
  • Specific Gravity: 2.95
  • Hardness: 6 to 6.5
  • Structure: Interwoven Fibrous
  • Chemical Composition: Ca2(MgFe)5(OH)2(Si4O11)2
  • Jadeite Jade Properties:
  • Spot Refractive Index: 1.66
  • Specific Gravity: 3.34
  • Hardness: 6.5 to 7
  • Structure: Interlocking Granular
  • Chemical Composition: NaAl(SiO3)2


Jade is found in many parts of the world:

In the United States jade is found in Alaska, California, Washington State, Oregon, North Carolina, and Wyoming.


How jade is formed:

  • Jade is created in areas of the world that have subduction zones.  Subduction occurs when two of the earth's plates collide and one plate dives under the other.
  • The lower plate takes the necessary minerals to the depths, pressures and temperatures needed to form jade.


Jade, The Stone of Heaven, Tidbits:

  • In ancient Chinese contests the third place contestant was awarded ivory, the second place contestant was awarded gold, and the winner was awarded jade.
  • Pure jade is white.  Any other color of jade has impurities in it.
  • Jade is one of nature's toughest minerals.
  • Confucius speaking of nephrite jade:
    • The wise have likened it to virtue.  For them, its polish and brilliancy represent the whole of purity; its perfect compactness and extreme hardness represent the sureness of the intelligence; its angles, which do not cut, although they seem sharp, represent justice; the pure and prolonged sound which it gives forth when one strikes it represents music.
    • Its color represents loyalty; its interior flaws, always showing themselves through the transparency, call to mind sincerity; its iridescent brightness represents heaven; its admirable substance, born of mountain and of water, represents the earth.  Used alone without ornamentation it represents chastity.  The price which all the world attaches to it represents the truth.
  • Nephrite is derived from the Greek word nephros.  Nephros is the Greek word for kidney.


Jade Terminology:

  • BC Jade:  Jade mined from British Columbia.
  • Polar Jade:  Jade mined from the Polar Mine in Canada.
  • Chrome Jade:  Jade with brilliant green specks.
  • Chatoyant Jade: Jade that has a tiger eye effect in the stone.
  • Botryoidal Jade: Also known as bubble jade.  Jade shaped like clumps of grapes.
  • Siberian Jade:  Jade from Siberia.
  • Wyoming Jade: Jade from Wyoming.
  • Vulcan Jade: Jade from California with a golden brown skin.
  • There are many other terms that are used in describing jade.


Recommended Reading:

  • Jade Stone of Heaven, by Richard Gump.  ISBN: 0-385-01705-7
  • Jade, by Roger Keverne.  ISBN: 1-85967-191-8
  • Jade Beneath the Sea, by Don Wobber.  ISBN: 0-910286-44-2


Sculpting Jade:

  •    Jade is harder than steel.  Therefore jade is not carved, it is ground and polished.  Jade is ground wet because it gives off an asbestos like fiber dust  when worked that can be harmful to the lungs.
  •    Jade is primarily worked with either diamond or silicone carbide tools, papers and abrasives.  Jade is worked with successive finer grades of abrasives.  Some of the grits available are 36, 80, 100, 120, 220, 400, 600, 1200.
  •    After the 600 or 1200 grit the jade is ready to polish.  Polishing can be achieved using very fine grades of diamond pastes on media like felt or with chrome oxide mixtures or other compounds on leather.  Polishing techniques and compounds are closely guarded secrets by many jade sculptors.
  •    Some jades polish with an orange peel look.  These jades require a lot of work and "know how" in the final polishing process.  The better jades, like Siberian jades, usually take an excellent polish even for novice sculptors.  Since jade is very time consuming to sculpt and polish we recommend that you always start with a quality piece of jade rough.