When buying jade (or any gemstone) you have to get honest with yourself about your motives. Are you mainly out to buy something pretty that pleases you? If that’s the case, it may be incidental whether or not the “jade” you’re buying is real or not. Inexpensive costume jewelry is a wonderful thing and if you just want to buy things you like, you can use price points to steer you to the right items and not worry too much over whether or not you’re buying something genuine or not.
However, many of us want to invest in genuine jade and we’d like that jade to be of high enough quality to maintain its value, if not increase over the years. For such buyers, the piece has to please us first and then stand up to inspection. Genuine jade comes in many colors but, as a rule of thumb, the most valuable jade is the jade with the most vibrant color. Translucent jade often is more valuable than the more cloudy or opaque variety. As for color, green jade is the most traditional type and, as such, can be counted on to maintain its value (because green jade will almost always be in demand). White jade of high quality is considered the most valuable–but then again, it depends on who’s buying and who’s selling.
However, there are no hard and fast rules here–you can find a piece of red jade that will be more valuable than a similar piece of green jade. In China, white jade is also considered a particularly valuable type, especially if the white is nearly translucent.
But today we want to focus not so much on relative value but whether the jade is genuine.
Jade is pretty easy to fake. In much of the West, there are not that many jade experts. In shops and online, it’s pretty easy to pass any number of stones off as “jade.” After all, it comes in a variety of colors and is sometimes clear and sometimes opaque. That description covers a lot of ground! Plus there are also synthetic versions of jade. Some jade is actually jade, but it has been enhanced with dyes or other treatments to improve its sales appeal. This may not matter if you just want something pretty to wear, but altered jade is not valuable.
There are two great tests to see if the jade you want to buy is really jade. Both require a bit of expertise but they are easy to do and if you are around jade very much, you’ll quickly get the hang of this.
- The first jade test is the heaviness test. Real jade (both jadeite and nephrite) is a comparatively heavy stone. In fact, if you have similar items made of glass and jade, the jade item will feel noticeably heavier.
- The second jade test is the cool test. Jade cools quickly and tends to remain at a cool temperature. If you want to test an item to see if it’s real jade, hold it in your hand until it warms up. Hold it long enough that the jade gets to be body temperature. Quickly put the jade down and come back about a minute later. If it’s jade, that is long enough for it to cool back down. If you can’t tell with your hand, use the tip of your tongue–it’s very sensitive. If it’s cool on your tongue, it’s jade.
Although it is much harder to test, real jade is very strong (stronger than steel) and it’s very tough. It is harder to break a piece of jade than a piece of glass. If you can do this (and please get the owner’s permission) you can try to nick the jade with the blade of a pen knife. Jade is harder and should not be scratched by this.