Jade is said to bless whatever it touches, serving mankind across the globe for nearly 6,000 years. For primitive peoples in the British Isles, its toughness, and ability to polish and sharpen made it a favored stone for axe heads, knives and weapons. Indigenous tribes of Mexico, Central and South America, and New Zealand carved it into deity masks and ritual artifacts, even cast it into wells as an offering to the water spirits for fresh and plentiful water. Jade has been the most highly esteemed stone in China throughout recorded history, and was valued for its beauty and powers of healing and protection. An endless variety of gems, vessels, incense burners, beads, burial items and statues have been wondrously carved from Jade, as well as musical instruments and pendants inscribed with poetry. [Simmons, 210][Eason, 266, 268]
Jade is most valued for its metaphysical properties. It is the ultimate "Dream Stone," revered in ancient cultures, as well as today, to access the spiritual world, gain insight into ritualistic knowledge, encourage creativity, and dream-solve. [Melody, 341][Raphaell, 161] It is cherished as a protective talisman, assuring long life and a peaceful death, and is considered a powerful healing stone. [Mella, 87] An amulet of good luck and friendship, Jade signifies wisdom gathered in tranquility, dispelling the negative and encouraging one to see oneself as they really are. [Hall, 152]
In scientific terms, Jade is the name shared by two distinctly different minerals - Nephrite, a calcium magnesium silicate, and Jadeite, a sodium aluminum silicate. Though they have different compositions, hardnesses, densities and crystal structures, both are exceptionally tough stones, similar in appearance, and equally valuable in metaphysical properties. Both occur in the beautiful olive shades we've come to recognize as jade green, but have some distinctions.
Nephrite generally occurs in creamy white, mid- to deep olive green, brown and black. It has a smooth surface polish with a waxy sheen and is more commonly found. Jadeite may be a white-gray green, leafy green, blue or blue-green, emerald green, lavender, pink, red, orange, greenish-black or black. It is hard and lustrous, rarer than Nephrite, and usually more expensive. Translucent, emerald green Jadeite, colored by traces of chromium, is called Imperial Jade and is the rarest and most valuable.
The name and character of Jade is associated with many cultures, all referring to its reputed medicinal property of curing calculus stones and disorders of the kidneys or bladder. Yu-Stone to the ancient Chinese, it was called "spleen-stone" by the Mesoamericans. Nephrite is from the Greek word nephros, the kidney. The Spanish named it Piedra de hijada when they conquered the New World (lapis nephrictus in Latin), meaning "Stone of the loin," or "Stone of the flank." In a later French translation, the term was misprinted and became "pierre le jade." [Fernie, 284][Megemont, 97][Simmons, 209]
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