Did you know there are two different kinds of jade? There’s jadeite, which is a rare form of pyroxene that comes in a range of colors from pinks to purples to blacks, and then there’s the jade we know because of its use in tools, trinkets, and jewelry, and that is called nephrite jade. Nephrite jade was and still is an important part of many cultures in China, southeast Asia, New Zealand, and North America, though the high quality rare pieces that are the deep jade color are more expensive than the whitish green (called “mutton fat jade”) variety.
The nephrite variety (in any color) is comprised of the amphibole minerals actinolite and tremolite. There are also minerals present in the stone, including calcium and magnesium. These facts, once reflected upon, make it somewhat easy to understand why the stone was called “nephrite”, as it was believed to be helpful in relieving kidney pain. It was even called “kidney stone” for a while. Nephrite is made when oceanic and continental crusts brush up against each other, due to the amount of calcium formed by the reaction of the plates bumping into each other.
Though it was most often used in China, today’s high quality jade is actually found in Western Canada, in British Columbia, from which it is sent to international markets, like China. Mining for it is rough, however, due to weather constraints, which prevents all but a two-month mining season. Russia also has a stake in the market, and is known for its particularly bright jade coloring. The jade from Russia is also somewhat difficult to obtain, as it is mined in very remote, harsh areas.
Should you come across some jade, whether from a family heirloom or while trekking through some rugged terrain, you may want to know what it is worth, though this is a bit difficult depending on the quality and quantity of the jade, as well as where the market is going. With everyone clamoring for a piece, however, it is not unheard of to pay $1,000 USD for a single carat for a high quality, brilliantly colored piece of jade.