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Title: Jadeite  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jade, Omphacite, WikiProject Rocks and minerals/Worklist, Jadeite Cabbage, Chinese jade
Collection: Aluminium Minerals, Jade, Monoclinic Minerals, Pyroxene Group, Sodium Minerals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Jadeite from Burma
Category Pyroxene group
(repeating unit)
NaAlSi2O6 or Na(Al,Fe3+)Si2O6
Strunz classification 09.DA.25
Color Apple-green, emerald-green, bluish green, leek-green,greenish white, white, may show green spots, rarely blue or violet; colorless in thin section. Often also banded.
Crystal habit Commonly massive, or fibrous, granular; prismatic crystals rare
Crystal system Monoclinic prismatic
Twinning Single and lamellar twinning on [100] and [001]
Cleavage Good on [110]
Fracture Splintery
Mohs scale hardness 6.5 - 7
Luster Subvitreous, pearly on cleavages
Streak White
Diaphaneity Translucent
Specific gravity 3.24 to 3.43
Polish luster vitreous to greasy[1]
Optical properties Biaxial (+)
Refractive index nα = 1.654 - 1.673 nβ = 1.659 - 1.679 nγ = 1.667 - 1.693
Birefringence δ = 0.013 - 0.020
Dispersion r > v; moderate to strong.
Ultraviolet fluorescence Dark colors are generally inert. Light green – inert to weak white in long wave, generally inert in short wave; light yellow – inert to weak green in long wave, generally inert in short wave; white – inert to weak in long wave, generally inert in short wave; light purple – inert to weak white or weak brownish red in long wave, generally inert in short wave; some dyed lavender colors – moderate to strong orange in long wave, weaker in short wave[1]
References [2][3][4]

Jadeite is a pyroxene mineral with composition NaAlSi2O6. It is monoclinic. It has a Mohs hardness of about 6.5 to 7.0 depending on the composition. The mineral is dense, with a specific gravity of about 3.4. Jadeite forms solid solutions with other pyroxene endmembers such as augite and diopside (CaMg-rich endmembers), aegirine (NaFe endmember), and kosmochlor (NaCr endmember). Pyroxenes rich in both the jadeite and augite endmembers are known as omphacite.

The name jadeite is derived (via French: l'ejade and Latin: ilia[5]) from the Spanish phrase "piedra de ijada" which means "stone of the side". It was believed to cure kidney stones if it was rubbed against the side of the afflicted person's body. The Latin version of the name, lapis nephriticus, is the origin of the term nephrite, which is also a variety of jade.

Jadeite is formed in metamorphic rocks under high pressure and relatively low temperature conditions. Albite (NaAlSi3O8) is a common mineral of the Earth's crust, and it has a specific gravity of about 2.6, much less than that of jadeite. With increasing pressure, albite breaks down to form the high-pressure assemblage of jadeite plus quartz. Minerals associated with jadeite include: glaucophane, lawsonite, muscovite, aragonite, serpentine and quartz.

Rocks that consist almost entirely of jadeite are called jadeitite. In all well-documented occurrences, jadeitite appears to have formed from subduction zone fluids in association with serpentinite.[6] Jadeitite is resistant to weathering, and boulders of jadeitite released from the serpentine-rich environments in which they formed are found in a variety of environments.

Jadeite's color commonly ranges from white through pale apple green to deep jade green but can also be blue-green (like the recently rediscovered "Olmec Blue" jade), pink, lavender and a multitude of other rare colors. Chloromelanite is a very dark green to black variety.[7] Color is largely affected by the presence of trace elements such as chromium and iron. Its translucence can be anywhere from entirely solid through opaque to almost clear. Variations in color and translucence are often found even within a single specimen. Jadeite is reported from California, USA; Myanmar; New Zealand; Guatemala; Itoigawa, Japan; other localities of jadeite include Kazakhstan; Russia; British Columbia, Canada; Italy and Turkestan.

Polished Neolithic jadeitite axe-heads from the Museum of Toulouse

Over 180 axe heads made from jadeitite quarried in northern Italy in the Neolithic era have been found across the British Isles.[8][9] Because of the difficulty of working this material, all the axe heads of this type found are thought to have been non-utilitarian and to have represented some form of currency or be the products of gift exchange.[10]

Maya Jadeite Plaque, 600-900 C.E., Brooklyn Museum


Jadeite is one of the minerals recognized as the gemstone jade. The other is nephrite. Jadeite from the Motagua Valley, Guatemala, was used by the Olmec and Maya peoples, as well as the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica. Typically, the most highly valued colors of jadeite are the most intensely green, translucent varieties, though traditionally white has been considered the most valuable of the jades by the Chinese, known for their carefully crafted jade pieces. Other colors, like "Olmec blue" jade, which is characterized by its deep blue-green, translucent hue with white flecking, are also becoming more highly valued because of its unique beauty and historical use by the Mesoamerican Olmec and also in Costa Rica;[11] however, this variety was only recently rediscovered and is only being minimally exploited by native Guatemalans. It is thus difficult to obtain and as yet too rare and little known to have attained great value as a gemstone. When purchasing jade, quality is determined by the degree of translucence, cleanness of color and purity of color. Occasionally, other minerals such as serpentine or quartz are sold as jade but the difference can be determined by cleavage and hardness.

Unusual lavender jade (metaphonolite) from Bursa Province, northwestern Turkey. The color is from jadeite pyroxene.

See also


  1. ^ a b (Gia), Gemological. Gem Reference Guide. City: Gemological Institute of America (GIA), 1988. ISBN 0-87311-019-6
  2. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  3. ^ Mindat
  4. ^ Webmineral data
  5. ^
  6. ^ Sorena Sorensen, George E. Harlow, and Douglas Rumble, The origin of jadeitite-forming subduction-zone fluids: CL-guided SIMS oxygen-isotope and trace-element evidence. American Mineralogist, v. 91, pp. 979-996 (2006)
  7. ^ Mindat
  8. ^ "Jadeite axe-head".  
  9. ^ "Jadeite axe".  
  10. ^ Barker, Graeme (1999). Companion encyclopedia of archaeology. New York: Routledge. p. 378.  
  11. ^ Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy. Pre-Columbian Jade from Costa Rica. (1968). André Emmerich Inc., New York
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