For over 7,000 years, jade has been revered by royalty, warriors, and craftsman for its strength and beauty. Spanning civilizations from Chinese empires to the Mayans in Central America, jade is often associated with harmony and balance because of its cool, milky green appearance.
Jade is a generic term for two types of gems, nephrite and jadeite. While they share many of the same characteristics, each gem has unique properties when processed. Jadeite is rarer than nephrite, and so is more highly valued. The two minerals remained undistinguished until the 19th century.
Many jade artifacts still exist in excellent condition, including inscriptions, sculptures, and jewelry. Stronger than steel, jade was often used in weapons and tools as well, becoming an ornamental gem later in history.
Jade can also come in hues of white, pink, red, black, brown, and violet, but "Imperial Jade” – an emerald green variety – is perhaps the most well-known. Esteemed more highly than gold in Aztec and Mayan cultures, jade was also known as the "royal gem” in the Chinese empire and continues to impress admirers today.