Jade: Stone of Fortune

Probably the best known lucky charm in the world is jade, thanks in no small part to the Chinese, who credit the gemstone with all sorts of good fortune, depending on the shape of the jade stone. However, the name jade does not refer to a single mineral, but in fact consists of two. What exactly is jade? What makes jade the gemstone of fortune?

White Jade Bracelet
White Jade Bracelet

Jade Properties

While most people think of all jade stones as the same mineral, jade in fact consists of two chemically different metamorphic rocks, namely, jadeite and nephrite. Nephrite is more popular for its white variety, which when translucent is called mutton fat jade, and when opaque chicken bone jade. Both nephrite and jadeite occur in green; yet jadeite, which is much rarer and slightly harder, is usually richer in color.

A piece of raw jadeite
Source: Ra’ike via Wikimedia Commons

Jade History

The name jade comes from the Spanish piedra de ijada, meaning “stone of the flanks,” having been used by natives of conquered territories in South America to heal the kidney. The Greeks and Romans also used a jade stone, not only to cure kidney stones, but stomach problems as well. Indeed, the belief in jade as a healing stone was deeply associated with the abdomen. In her descent to the underworld, the Babylonian goddess Ishtar is said to have removed her girdle made of jade, which is believed to ease childbirth, leading to the gemstone’s use by many ancient midwives.

Nowhere is jade held to be most precious than in China, where the stone is carved into different shapes depending on the purpose of the charm. The translucent apple green jade is extremely rare that it was at one time, along with yellow jade, confiscated by the Chinese royal family, earning the green jade the name Imperial jade.

A buffalo sculpture made from white nephrite
Source: Pascal3012 via Wikimedia Commons

Nephrite, on the other hand, is widely occurring. The gemstone is also known as the New Zealand jade. The reason points to the huge importance of the jade gemstone to the native Maori culture. A jade crystal is held as treasure by the Maori. In addition to weapons and ornaments, the Maori carves a jade rock into their favorite talisman called the hei-tiki.

A jade butterfly is a charm for success in love
Source: Fellows via Wikimedia Commons

Jade Meaning

Nowhere are the metaphysical properties of jade discussed more thoroughly than in China, where the gemstone symbolizes all sorts of good fortune, depending on the form it takes. For instance, a jade stone in the shape of a padlock is given to a child as protection from sickness, while newlyweds hold on to a man riding a unicorn, which is a jade charm believed to usher in the birth of a new baby. A jade gemstone carved into a butterfly is exchanged between couples in the hope of successful love, while a jade gem in the image of a bat constitutes an added charm for good fortune.

Virgo Charm Necklace: Yellow Jade Pendant

Jade As Birthstone

Jade is a birthstone for two zodiac signs, namely, Virgo and Pisces.

Virgo. Possibly the biggest benefit that a jade stone brings to a Virgo person is the gemstone’s ability to inspire quick and precise decisions. Virgo people are analytical in nature and quite practical. While they are smart and shrewd all on their own, their attention to the smallest details usually makes them indecisive. The Virgo folk can hence make great use of a jade crystal as the gemstone inspire swift and smart decisions, moving the reserved Virgo forward. For other birthstones for Virgo, see also Virgo Birthstones.

Pisces. Jade is also a birthstone for Pisces. Luck is the metaphysical property that jade is best known for, and this boon certainly does not go to waste on Pisces people, who are rather ambitious for such caring and emotional folk. For other birthstones for Pisces, see also Pisces Birthstones.

March. As a month stone, jade is a traditional birthstone for March in the Old Tibetan calendar.

Tumbles stones of white, yellow and green jade
Source: Simon A. Eugster via Wikimedia Commons

Jade Color

While jade is most popular and expensive as a green gemstone, jade also occurs in other colors, including orange, red and lavender. White jade and yellow jade are particularly prized in the Far East. Nephrite jade comes in brown and gray, while jadeite can be blue and violet (or purple) on rare occurrences. Both nephrite and jadeite have black varieties. It is interesting to note that a jade stone is not limited to a single color, but may in fact be banded.

Yellow Jade Bracelet

Jade Jewelry

Jade is a versatile gemstone, and worn both in fine or fashion jewelry. A fine jade gemstone is usually used as pendant for ring, earring or necklace, while a less expensive jade stone is cut into beads and made into beaded necklaces and bracelets, as well as carved into bangles.

Yellow Jade Necklace

Jade Value

Being a gemstone of two minerals and quite a few colors, jade ranges in value from among the cheapest to one of the most expensive gemstone in the world. In fact, green jadeite costs higher than the precious stones ruby, diamond, emerald and sapphire. On the other hand, yellow jade and white jade are rather affordable in price. With the exception of lavender, red and orange jade, other varieties of the gemstone are even less expensive.

Do you like jade?

Most popular in green, jade is a widely treasured gemstone, especially by the Chinese, who believe a jade stone to bring all sorts of good fortune. Do you like jade? Do you like wearing green gemstones in general? See also 51 Types of Green Gemstones for Jewelry.

Published June 9, 2014

About the Author

Deomar Pandan is the author of Power Birthstone. He's on the third draft of a high-fantasy novel, Cybelym, and the first of a historical fiction, Gem Faerie. He hopes to release a nonfiction book about diamond soon. Follow him for updates. Or see his jewelry and designs.