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In an effort to describe the different colors of jade, many trade names have evolved over time. These names have included everything from animal and vegetable appellations to mineral and source terms. For example, in different parts of the world, certain types of jade have been called chicken-bone, kingfisher, mutton-fat, nightingale and shrimp: apple, chrysanthemum, melon, moss, peach, sun-flower and spinach; emerald, sapphire and pearl; as well as Burmese, Canadian and New Zealand jade.

Some of these trade names are still used today. For example, top-quality jadeite might be called ‘Imperial Jade’, or ‘Emerald Jade’. This connotes an even, highly saturated green or slightly bluish-green color. Another common term for jadeite is ‘apple green’, which indicates a vivid, slightly yellowish-green color.

Type of Jade

Trade Name

Standard Color & Appearance

JADEITE Apple Intense, medium yellowish-green
Chloromelanite Very dark green to black, opaque to semi-translucent jade. This type of jadeite contains high concentrations of other pyroxene group minerals (e.g. diopside).
Fei cui, kingfisher Intense, medium green jade
Imperial gem, emerald Intense, medium green to slightly bluish-green; semi transparent to translucent jade. Considered by most to be top-quality jade.
Moss-in-the-snow Translucent white jadeite with green streaks called streamers.
Yunan Dark strong green, semi-translucent to opaque. When cut thin, the jade appears translucent.
NEPHRITE Axe In reference to the use of jade as a tool; obsolete term.
Chicken-bone Opaque white to very light brown or grey jade; may have been buried or burned.
Grave, tomb Ancient burial jade pieces whose color may be yellowish or brownish due to iron oxidation.
Mutton-fat Translucent white to very light yellow nephrite jade.
Spinach jade Medium to dark greyish-greens
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Jade Names and Descriptions – Green, Translucent, Etc.

Trade names can be misleading, though, since they may be used differently around the world. These terms may simply refer to a jade piece’s location or color, rather than its overall quality. For example, an ‘Imperial’ jadeite ring may have an outstanding color, but it may not posses all the factors that make it a top-quality stone such as evenness of color, semi-transparency and freedom from noticeable inclusions. Likewise, a ‘Burmese jadeite’ specimen may indeed come from Burma but that does not mean it has exceptional color.

The common trade terms for nephrite also warrant caveats. Since this jade makes up all the important carvings prior to the 18th century, many of the terms connote age or cultural use. For example, nephrite that may have been used in burial rites is often known as ‘grave’ or ‘tomb’ have. Green jade used in prehistoric times by the Maoris in New Zealand have been called ‘Maori stone’. Due to the fact that some jade has been artificially aged, such designations need to be verified by archaeologists and gemologists with specialized knowledge.

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