There are two types of jade. One is known as jadeite which is a sodium aluminum silicate and the other is nephrite a calcium magnesium iron silicate. Their chemical composition and crystal structure are different therefore properties are not the same too. However visually they are difficult to tell apart.

Jadeite is more translucent and vitreous than nephrite. Jadeite has a density of 3.30-3.38 while nephrite is less dense at 2.90-3.03. Jadeite is 6.5 to 7 on Mohs hardness scale while nephrite is slightly softer at 6 to 6.5. Jadeite has a very weak greenish to whitish fluorescence while nephrite has no fluorescence.

All of the traditional Chinese jade is nephrite until the 18th century. When its mines were exhausted, jadeite was imported from Burma.

Jadeite is the more precious and valuable of the two jades. A highly valued vivid emerald green jadeite is known as Imperial Jadeite. It is only found in two places, in Guatemala and Burma.

Jade is derived from the Spanish “Piedra de Hijada” or Stone for the Pain in the Side. When the Spaniards arrived in Mesoamerica in the 1500s, they had noticed the Mesoamerican natives holding a piece of jadeite to their sides to relieve their pain. Thus, the name was given. The Chinese named it "Yu" which means Precious Stone.

Jade was highly regarded as a magical and sacred stone since the Stone Age. The kings in ancient China were buried with jade treasures of ornaments and ritual objects. For example, a coffin made of jade for King Liu Fei dated 2000 years ago has been unearthed.

In the Shang period (1600 – 1046 B.C.), kings and their consorts were buried with several hundreds of jade objects in each tomb. These include weapons, ornaments and jewelries. Jade burial suits that were worn as armor for the afterlife to prevent mortal decay have also been unearthed.

Jadeite was highly esteemed by the Ancient Toltecs, Mayans and other Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Mexicas (today known as the Aztecs). It was used by the ancient Mesoamericans to make ritual objects such as death masks and to decorate their weapons.

Around 1200-1000 BC, the Olmec of the Gulf Coast were among the first Mesoamerican people to shape jade into votive celts, axes, and bloodletting tools. The Mayans produced the famous funeral masks made of jade and the green jadeite Maya Maize God pendant among other renowned artifacts.

The Olmecs preferred bluish jadeite which is known as “Olmec Blue” while the Mayans liked intense green tone stones known as “Imperial Green”. Among Aztec nobility, jade jewelry was the most valuable luxury. Jadeite in Mesoamerica was highly valued and revered. They were mostly reserved for the adornments of gods, high priests and noble families.

The only source of jadeite known so far in Mesoamerica is the Motagua River valley in Guatemala. However, scientists are debating that multiple sources could have come from Mexico and Costa Rica.

Sources of Imperial Jadeite are Myanmar (Burma) and Guatemala. Now, sources for Jadeite can also be found in Japan, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Cuba and in the United States.

Jadeite comes in green, white, orange, yellow, lavender, gray and black. The purest form of jadeite is white. It is also known as Camphor Jade (extremely valuable in Asia). Specimens of Camphor Jade containing green apple patches is also highly esteemed. However, the most valued and sought after is the lively emerald green color that is also translucent. The other priced forms of jadeite are the yellow jadeite with a pink undertone.

In Burma, jadeite is known as Chauk-Sen and is the imperial jade of lovely pale apple green color.

The most coveted jadeite stones possess a deep rich green color. Due to its rarity and high value, some jadeite are artificially dyed, bleached to remove brown pigments and fill with a polymer or coated to improve its appearance.

The finest-quality jadeite—almost transparent with a vibrant emerald-green color—is known as “Imperial jade.”

Other highly valued jade varieties include:

- “kingfisher jade" with a green color that’s only slightly less vivid than Imperial

- “apple jade" which is an intense yellowish green

- “moss-in-snow jade" which is translucent white with bright green veining, patches or spots

- and lavender and almost black jadeite

To the ancient civilizations, jade not only symbolized harmony, eternity and virtue, it also represents life and death.

It has been highly revered as a magical and sacred stone by different cultures and it is always one of the gemstones that accompanied the dead in the afterlife.

Jade represents good health and longevity. This is the reason why jade was usually carved into dragons because dragons represent prosperity and power. In feng shui jadeite is often prescribed as a cure for bad influences with regards to personal fortune and state of health.

Jade heals stressed organs and discharges toxins. Powdered jade can be applied to the skin for beauty or taken orally to cure ailments.

Jade is often worn as jewelry or carried around to protect one from harm and injury and as a good luck charm.