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What Is Imperial Jade? The Definitive Guide To the Royal Gem

Imperial jade sounds so much more expensive and prestigious than normal jade. But what’s the difference between imperial jade and all the rest? What Is imperial jade and why is imperial jade so special?

imperial green jadeite bead and diamond necklace

Imperial jade is a rare form of jadeite: clearer, greener, and shinier than other types of jadeite. Imperial jade is also the most expensive form.

In this article, we’ll answer the question: What is imperial jade? Then, we’ll discuss the jade grading system, how to ethically purchase imperial jade, and how to care for imperial jade pieces.

A Brief History of The World’s Favorite Stone, Jade

Of all gemstones, few have a richer, more interesting history than jade.

Jade Throughout the Ages

The history of imperial jade begins in Guatemala, where jade gets its name. Though many people believe that jade has its roots in China, China only had access to true imperial jadeite jade during the 18th century.

The Aztecs, Olmecs, and Maya called jade the “piedre de jiada,” a phrase meaning “loin stone” since these civilizations believed that jadeite could cure kidney disorders.

Some of the earliest known artifacts made from jade come from Guatemala, dating back to 1500 BCE. While jadeite was used as a medicinal stone that could heal certain ailments, it was also used as a currency, material for ritual masks, beads for jewelry, and much more in ancient Guatemala.

Still, in China, nephrite jade, a different type of jade from imperial grade jade, had grown in popularity beginning as early as 3400 BCE. This type of jade, often seen as inferior to jadeite, was an important burial offering.

Jade was already known as the imperial stone in China by the time that true imperial quality jade made it from Myanmar to the imperial court of Qing dynasty China.

Jade’s Journey: Where Imperial Jade Comes From

True imperial jade only comes from two locations: Guatemala and Burma (Myanmar).

Imperial jade is only made from the finest quality of jadeite, a crystal that only grows in deposits in Myanmar and Guatemala.

Only jadeite can claim the title of an imperial gem.

In most cases, humans haven’t needed to mine into the earth to find jade. Instead, jade comes from fresh or saltwater deposits. Thus, to find jade, one only needs to look in the water.

However, in the modern day, as jadeite has become more and more valuable, Burmese and Guatemalan authorities have begun large-scale mining jadeite with machines.

What Is Imperial Jade? The Enduring Mythology Behind the gemstone

Now that you know about the history and origins of this gemstone, you might be wondering what is imperial jade in the context of mythology. Boy, oh, boy, is there a story to tell about jadeite!

Jade, across many cultures, has been a symbol of immortality, nobility, and wealth.

In Chinese culture, the belief that jade is alive has been around since the Han Dynasty. Under Chinese superstition, jade is supposed to bring its wearer eternal life, a younger appearance, and luck.

To many in China, jade represented heaven, and wearing this gemstone could bring one closer to the Gods.

Jade’s hardness also caused many Chinese people to believe that the stone could better preserve the dead. For that reason, jade was commonly used in burial shrouds, coffins, suits, and jewelry for the deceased.

In Mayan culture, jade was a sacrificial offering that brought good fortune to the offerer. For example, Mayans believed that the deceased should be buried with a jade bead so that they could offer it to the beasts of hell in the afterlife.

What Makes Imperial Jade So Special?

While there are many sorts of jade, like kingfisher jade and moss-in-snow jade, it’s the highly prized imperial jade, known for its very specific shade of emerald green, that really steals the show.

Imperial jade is special because it is free from impurities. Since it lacks any inclusions of other minerals, it is very transparent and seems to glow on its own.

Imperial jade is exceedingly rare, which is another factor that has made it more special in the public eye. It only comes from two mines in the entire world, so it can be pretty tricky to come by.

So, how is imperial jade identified? And what exactly does the term ‘imperial jade’ mean? Let’s take a look.

What Is Imperial Jade? The Perfect Shade of Green

Imperial jade is a very deep shade of green. Jadeite of lesser quality is brighter green or has a milky green color. These other types of jade are called water jade, ice jade, or apple jade.

Unlike the lesser-quality jade, the imperial jade looks like an emerald. Its color is clear and consistent throughout the stone.

Imperial jade also doesn’t have any white, brown, or gray inclusions, giving it a rich, bright green color that is easy to recognize.

What Is Imperial Jade? Crystal Clear

As we mentioned above, jadeite is a granular crystal. That means it forms in round clumps that are densely packed together. In imperial jade, these clumps are the densest, producing a naturally oily, glassy-looking stone that is transparent.

High-quality jade looks like dark green water. It hardly needs a polish to shine brilliantly.

However, lower-quality jade has a sandy texture that can be very difficult to polish out. In many cases, only well-worn jade of lower quality can achieve a shiny, glassy appearance.

Imperial Jade Reigns Supreme

Jadeite and nephrite are incredibly popular low-value gemstones that many people around the world love and purchase. But how is imperial jade different?

Imperial jade is very, very rare. We’re talking the once-in-a-million-years type of rare here. In fact, imperial jade is even rarer than the highest quality of diamonds!

Unlike nephrite, jadeite only occurs in two places worldwide. Additionally, not all of the jadeite mined from Myanmar and Guatemala are high enough quality to be called imperial jade.

Only the most translucent gemstones with the most even coloring can earn the name “imperial jade. ”

What Is Imperial Jade? It’s What’s Inside That Counts

So, what is imperial jade when we compare it to other grades of jade?

Imperial jade is a form of jadeite, which consists of sodium, aluminum, and silica. With this chemical composition, jadeite has a granular crystallization form. That means that the stone forms in circular bits. This creates a very dense and polishable piece of gemstone.

Jadeite has a hardness of 6.5 to 7, which means that it is very durable, difficult to scratch, and challenging to carve.

Imperial jade is just as hard as any other jadeite, but the granular crystals inside imperial jade are densest. Thus, imperial jade doesn’t have any cloudiness and it shines much more than other types of jade.

How to Spot the Imperial Jade

Now we know the answer to the question of what is imperial jade, let’s talk about how gemologists and jewelers pick out the inferior quality stones from the imperial ones.

The Four Factors: Color, Transparency, Texture, and Cut

Jadeite can range from white to green to blue and even red, purple, pink, or brown. However, imperial jade has a deep, clear emerald green color with no white or brown swirling.

The lowest quality jadeite is milky white, and it looks a bit like milk glass. This inferior jadeite is rarely translucent.

On the other hand, imperial jade is always very translucent and has a consistent green color.

Jadeite’s texture is naturally porous and sandy, but over time, it polishes and absorbs oil, giving it more shine. Imperial jade is much shinier and glossier than inferior jadeite.

Generally, you’ll find that imperial jade is cut into cabochons, given how small and rare these gemstones are. Lower-quality jade is often carved into jadeite bangles, statues, pendants, or other art.

Get Legit: How To Certify Imperial Jade

Imperial jade, with its high value, has often been duped by scammers. That’s why it’s critical to look for credentials that verify your gemstone as imperial jade.

The most trustworthy lab names to look for are those affiliated with:

Why Does The Stone’s Origin Even Matter?

The origin of a piece of jadeite matters because there are only two countries in the world where jadeite occurs. These are Guatemala and Myanmar (Burma).

Jade from other countries is nephrite jade, which is far less valuable and pure than jadeite.

Is Jadeite Unethical?

While jadeite used to be mined gently by observing rocks in streams and rivers, modern inventions have revolutionized (and worsened) the jade mining industry.

The Jade Boom in Myanmar’s Environmental Impact

Modern jade mining practices in Myanmar are particularly harmful. In Myanmar (Burma), modern machinery has brought in new commercial mining practices that harm the environment.

Landslides, pollution of natural waterways, and irresponsible dumping have created a catastrophe in Myanmar – all for the prospect of jadeite.

Flooding, pollution, and conflict are at an all-time high as activists fight for better health and safety regulations in Burmese mining.

Fair Trade and Sustainability For Myanmar’s Jade

To combat unsafe and harmful mining practices, many jewelers and gemologists have opted to source jadeite from Guatemala, where jade mining is far less harmful. This Guatemalan jadeite is often listed as “Fair Trade.”

However, the best way to ethically purchase jade is to buy it second-hand.

A Sound Investment

Jade is a pricey gemstone, and when cared for and purchased properly, it can accrue value over time.

Pricey Pebbles: What Drives Value In Imperial Jade?

The most valuable imperial jade pieces will be uniform in color, translucent enough to read through, and have a glassy shine.

Imperial jade stones of this quality have been known to sell for millions of dollars.

Often, gemstones of this quality only come from Myanmar.

What Is Imperial Jade’s Value?

Imperial jade is one of the most expensive materials in the world.

For example, a recent auction at Sotheby’s saw a necklace with 43 imperial jade beads sell for $27.2 million.

Even small imperial jade rings and cabochons can sell for upwards of $50,000, so this gemstone is no joke.

A Big Investment

With so much money at stake, it’s critical to be sure that you’re buying imperial jade wisely.

Before purchasing any jade, ever, you should have it tested at a credible geological lab. There, they can chemically test and observe gemstones to positively identify them. Without these tests, you may be wasting your money on pretty glass.

Additionally, it’s nice to have information about whether your imperial jade comes from Burma or Guatemala for the ethical reasons stated above.

Take Care!

Imperial jade has a long history, and it’s worth quite a bit of money. That’s why you should do your best to take good care of it!

A Gentle Touch: How To Keep Imperial Jade Clean

While imperial jade is a very hard stone, it is sensitive to acidic chemicals, heat, and light. For that reason, it’s best to keep jade pieces away from chemicals such as alcohol, bleach, vinegar, and other heavy-duty cleaning chemicals.

Instead, you should always clean jadeite, especially imperial jade, with lukewarm soapy water and a soft cloth.

Don’t Rock the Boat: What To Avoid When Wearing and Storing Imperial Jade

While jade is difficult to chip, it is sensitive to acidic chemicals and extreme temperatures.

For that reason, jewelers should avoid torching imperial jade and use other methods for setting these stones.

Additionally, it’s best to keep jade stones away from ovens, naturally.

You should also take off any jadeite jewelry when using cleaning chemicals. Even mild acids such as vinegar can wear away at jade over time.

Storage Solutions: Keeping Your Jade In Great Condition

While jadeite is a resilient stone that benefits from wear, water and exposure to acidic compounds (including sweat) can wear away at the stone.

So, for the best results, store imperial jade in a humidity-controlled environment.

Imperial jade is the finest quality of jadeite, a gemstone that naturally occurs only in Myanmar (Burma) and Guatemala.

What Is Imperial Jade? FAQs

What is the difference between jade and imperial jade?

The difference between jade and imperial jade is the color, clarity, and shine of the gemstone. Imperial jade has a richer green color, is translucent, and doesn’t have any cloudy impurities.

Why is Imperial jade so expensive?

Imperial jade is so expensive because it is very rare. Very few jadeite pieces are of high enough quality to be imperial grade, and jadeite is rare as is.

Is Imperial jade more expensive than gold?

Imperial jade is significantly more expensive than gold. Imperial green jade pieces generally sell for millions of dollars, even for very small stones.

What Is Imperial Jade?

Imperial Jade is a rare, green gemstone that’s been famous for years. It’s got a deep, rich color and has been loved by people for its quality and beauty.