Jade is a gemstone that almost glows. It has been prized by man for thousands of years.
The chinese language uses the same word to mean both jade and precious stone. The English word jade comes from the Spanish piedra de ijada, which means colic stone. The Spanish called it this because they believed jade cured stomach pains.
Jade can be either of two separate minerals, jadeite or nephrite. These look so much alike that only an expert can tell them apart. Jadeite is slightly harder than nephrite. It also has a translucent glow and comes in more colours.
Jade is white in its pure state, but enough mineral impurities are usually present to make jade bright yellow, red, or one of the many shades of green. The most desired shade of jade is an emerald-green, or imperial jade, which may be almost transparent. This type comes from Burma.
Because jade is a tough and hard stone, primitive men used it to make axes, hammers, knives, and other useful tools. Later, men used it for bowls, carvings, jewelry, and charms.
Jade is so tough that it is very difficult to carve. Steel chisels will not work. So instead, gritty materials are rubbed over the surface until it wears away. Making a simple vase may take two or three years of work.
Carved jade pieces have been found in mexico that are at least three thousand five hundred years old. The early men of central America used some jade in tools, but used it mostly for religious purposes. The Aztecs considered jade to be worthy many times its weight in gold.
China is the country where jade has been of the greatest importance. For three thousand years the chinese have been making lovely jade carvings. The chinese admire jade so much that those who can afford it always carry small pieces with them. They believe that when jade is fingered, some of its secret virtues rub off.