Jade, Stone of Heaven
Jade held a special place in Chinese religion. It was the link between earth and heaven, the bridge from life to immortality. It was a conduit, a conductor, the embodiment of man's highest thought, just touching upon the Divine. In religious ceremonies, the emperor often used jade as we might a telephone, except he held up the jade form and spoke through it, to heaven. And through jade, heaven was said to send it's blessings in return.
It is often thought that jade is always green. Actually there is a wide range of colors -- white, grey, black, yellow, orange, brown, red, blue, lavender (each in a variety of shades) - and, of course, many different greens.
The five primary colors, according to the Chinese, are red, yellow, blue (including green), white, and black. Red is the color of joy; yellow is the national color and was sacred to the Emperor and his sons; blue was the color used for the sedan chairs of the higher officials (green for the lower officials); white typifies mildness; black symbolizes ferocity. Lavender was used for the seals of the highest authorities.
The hues of jade were more than colors to the ancient Chinese. The five, in their purity, represented nature's basic elements. Yellow = earth. Black = water. White = air or metal. Red = fire. Green = wood.
Jade is not one stone, but two: the minerals nephrite and jadeite, each with distinctive characteristics, properties, colors, sources and uses. Though the differences between the two are highly significant, for one reason or another, they are rarely distinguished.
Nephrite is a silicate of magnesium - fibrous, hard to fracture, almost soapy in appearance. Jadeite is a silicate of aluminum, microcrystalline, much more readily broken, and when polished, far more brilliant.
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