Jade, “stone of heaven”, is not just one gemstone but two. One, called nephrite, has been found throughout the world, but was especially prized by the ancient Chinese who called it Yu, meaning “precious stone of great beauty.” The other jade, a relative newcomer when compared to nephrite, is called jadeite. It has been mined in Myanmar (Burma) since the late 18th century and is highly sought after for its intense green color although it, like nephrite, comes in a range of colors. Much of the material is permanently dyed, and consequently, much less costly. More jadeite is available in China than anywhere else in the world; however, none is mined there.
There are fifteen jade substitutes. The one most frequently encountered in carvings is serpentine, quite soft in comparison and quite inexpensive. Unlike jadeite and nephrite, which are very tough, serpentine is fragile and can almost be scratched with a fingernail. The most valuable of all jadeite is lavender in color. True “Imperial” jadeite must be at least translucent, have an even body color (no mottling), no visible inclusions and green in color like “Prell” shampoo!
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler, and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness.
He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser, from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Prime Time Live” several times.
Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.