Chinese Jade and Jadeite: a tradition spanning six millennia

Jadeite, a silicate mineral of the pyroxene group is one of several types of stones often used by Chinese craftsmen for carving works of art. It is not the same as jade, which is also called nephrite, but of different composition but also used extensively as a media for craftsmen in China.

set_of_three_chinese_green_jadeite_necklaces897_5Jade and jadeite are often confused and assumed to be the same stone. Jadeite has a crystalline structure and is composed of aluminum and sodium while jade is of calcium and magnesium and has a fibrous structure.


Set of Three Chinese Jadeite Necklaces, sold 10/27/15 $325,000



In early Chinese cultures jade was carved into ritual forms included in burial sites. Forms such as the cong, a hollowed rectangular tube; bi, a circular disk centered by a circular aperture; and the huang, a

Chinese Carved Jade Cong, Western Zhou with Later
Added Carved Inscription          bidding live to 10/20/16

semi-circular arc are a few of these                                          ritual forms jade-champion-vaseLater jade carvings often emulated early ritual bronze shapes such as the gu, a trumpet shaped wine vessel or ding, a deep-bodied food vessel raised on three usually cylindrical legs.
Chinese Qing Dynasty Jade Champion Vase, sold 11/13/13     $86,025.60jade-duck        Chinese Celadon Jade Duck, 18th century                    sold 11/02/11     $53,400

chinese_celadon_jade_finger_citron_box_18th_c293_5Small animals and amulets carved of jade represented zodiac figures or Buddhistic emblems and were carried for good luck or personal adornment. Larger carved figural groups represented mythological and Buddhistic subjects and these were often also associated with good luck or other attributes. An excellent example of a naturalistic form was sold by Lark Mason Associates on April 30, 2014 of a finger citron, sometimes referred to as a ‘buddha’s hand’ because of the finger-like appendages rising from one end. This example, in a pale green color frequently referred to as ‘celadon’ from the French, for pale green, also incorporated bright russet colored patches, typical of jade. It realized $162,000 at auction.

Jadeite was not extensively used as a carving material until the middle Qing dynasty and lavender-jademost examples of jadeite were created during the late Qing period and after the fall of the Qing dynasty. The most highly prized jadeite is that which is brilliant and translucent emerald green, often called ‘imperial jade’ but jadeite comes in a range of colors from a rich russet to stunning lavender. A rare example of lavender and brilliant green jadeite occurring in the same stone was sold in September 11, 2011 by Lark Mason Associates on the website. The large high-shouldered vase was principally in a deep, rich lavender jadeite and perched on the lip and encircling the open mouth, was a bright green coiled dragon forming the handle. The stunning use of color and clever carving helped this object realize $117,000 at auction. Jade and jadeite are two stones that were used to great effect by Chinese craftsmen and the best examples from all periods can be seen in major museums in the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and others.