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Jade is one of the most complicated gemstones. Because of its popularity, there is a list of other minerals and materials like glass and plastic to fake natural jade. Additionally, there is a land tradition of treatment of real jade. So it is good to know the differences between real and fake jade.
There are 5 main differences between real and fake jade. Natural jade can occur in various colors (white, brown, red, orange, black), not only green. Real jade cannot be scratched by steel and glass. There are no bubbles or dye concentrations in real jade. Natural jade doesn’t glow under UV light.
A number of jade simulants reach more than 20 natural and man-made materials. Around 15 misleading names like Afghanistan jade and Transvaal Jade are not jade at all! We are not going to scare you with these numbers; we would like to stress the importance of the current situation in the jade market.
Today we will discuss all possible fakes and misleading names and highlight the properties, which let us identify different types of fakes. However, in the case of jade, it’s better to consult with a professional gemologist. Sometimes even rough material doesn’t insure you against fakes.
If you are interested in checking out the best books about rock and minerals identification you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
How to Tell if Jade Is Real (Different Colors)
Real jade is a gorgeous gemstone of various colors, from the most well-known green to white, red, pink, green, yellow, black, and even light blue. So bright untypical colors should not frighten you and be a signal of fakes.
Real jade is semitransparent, with evenly distributed color and gentle changing between slightly different hues. Real jade is a microcrystalline aggregate with no visible crystals or grains. It is hard ( 6–7 on the Mohs scale) and extremely tough. Real untreated jade doesn’t glow under UV light in most cases.
The word jade stands for two different minerals: nephrite and jadeite. This is because it was almost impossible to differentiate between these two visually identical materials throughout history. Both are actually metamorphic rocks made up of tiny interlocking and fibrous mineral crystals.
Strictly speaking, jadeite is a distinct monoclinic mineral belonging to the pyroxene group and having an ideal chemical composition of NaAlSi2O6. Nephrite is a mixture of two minerals from the amphibole group: actinolite and tremolite Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2.
When we hear jade, we usually imagine a green stone; however, jadeite jade comes in a wide range of attractive colors: Many shades of green, yellow, and reddish-orange, plus white, gray, black, brown, and lavender (often a light purple or light grayish violet color). Nephrite jade has a bit different pallet and occurs mainly in light to dark green, yellow, brown, black, gray, or white colors.
Real white jade can be differentiated from fakes by its translucent milky appearance. It can be represented by both jadeite and nephrite.
Even a printed text can be readable through the best quality specimens of real white jade. Natural samples of white jade should not have any black inclusions or veins. White jade is usually called an ice jade, which is incredibly valuable today.
Sometimes, red jade may resemble coral. The color of natural red jadeite jade is mostly orangy-red and never purple-red. Real red jade is opaque and used mostly for carvings. It also has very even textures without any distinct veins.
Real pink jade never occurs in vivid colors. Colors of real pink jade are better described as pale pink, lavender, light purple, or light grayish violet. Natural pink jadeite jade is always whitish.
Stones can be translucent, while the best quality stones are almost transparent. Some pink jade stone has light luminescence. So in the case of the pink (lavender) jade is not always an indication of fakes.
Green has been Chinese culture’s most significant and cherished color for thousands of years. As we have previously discussed, green jade can be represented by jadeite and nephrite.
Green jade is that very type that has the greater number of fakes, substituents, and imitations. To differentiate green jade from fakes, it’s always better to have loupe and UV light.
The finest jadeite—almost transparent with vibrant emerald-green color—is known as “imperial jade.” Such green jadeite with no hint of gray and yellow commands millions of dollars in the marketplace.
Natural yellow jade has no vibrant coloration. Yello is more orangy and with warm hues. No lemon or acid variations can be observed in natural yellow jade. Like red jade, it tends to be opaque and, consequently, beautiful carving material.
In most cases, natural black jade is represented with nephrite. It is mostly opaque, but what can help you to differentiate black jade from fakes it’s luster. The luster of black jade won’t be glassy. You will not see very sparkling reflections. Natural black jade will have a waxy surface.
Do not expect vibrant electric blue lapis lazuli-like colors from blue jade. The tone and saturation of blue jade are noble.
It’s even better to call it light blue with drops of a gray color. Blue jade is extremely rare. The best specimens are almost transparent and look like blue ice.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
How to Test Jade with UV Light
UV light is one of the promising methods to spot dyed and polymers impregnated stones.
Testing jade with UV light should be placed in a dark room without additional light. Commonly real untreated jade doesn’t glow under UV. Some lavender or light samples can react to UV slightly. Treated impregnated with polymers specimens can have an uneven light-blue chalky glow.
Polymers, resins, and glues commonly glow under UV light. So performing UV test will spot places of glued pieces of bangle or zones impregnated with plastic material.
There were also occasions when real jade with little green zones was additionally dyed green. Interestingly, natural green spots don’t glow under UV, but artificially added ones glow.
TIP: Many minerals have the ability to fluoresce just like jade minerals. Find out how to use UV light while rockhounding in the field or identifying your rocks at home in the article below:
GUIDE: Rockhounding with UV Light & 3 Best UV Lights (2022)
How to Tell if Jade is Fake
It is challenging for even experienced traders of jade to tell which jade is real and which are fakes. Additional laboratory tests should have been done to be 100% sure. Common tests like relative weight, warm/cold to the touch, and the tapping sound are a bit subjective.
Fake jade can be represented by various materials with strikingly different physical and optical properties. Plastic fakes are softer than real jade and can be scratched by a knife and glass. Glass fakes can have shell-like chips and bubbles. Polymer fakes glow under UV light.
We must mention that the properties and tests described are also not precise. So we highly recommend asking for certificates made by a trustworthy gemological laboratory from a seller to be safe from buying very expensive fakes.
What is False Jade?
Falce jade is any kind of material that imitates real jade appearance. False jade can be represented by natural quartzite, chalcedony, hydrogrossular, marble, serpentinite, maw-sit-sit, and vesuvianite. Also, plastic, polymers, and glass can be used to substitute natural jade.
Jade can be substituted by both natural and man-made materials. The range of man-made materials is mainly limited by various glasses, plastic, and polymers.
Natural substituents are represented by different minerals and rocks, which look very similar to real jade. There is also a list of misleading trade terms, which sounds like a type of jade, but it’s a different material.
Here is a list of the most common misleading names for jade and what is it usually stands for
- Malaysia jade, Korean jade – dyed quartzite;
- Australian jade or Queensland jade – green chalcedony (chrysoprase);
- Transvaal jade, African jade, South African jade, Garnet jade, White jade – hydrogrossular garnet;
- California jade, Vesuvianite jade, American jade– translucent greenish-yellow idocrase (vesuvianite);
- Afghanistan jade, Mountain jade – green marble;
- Serpentine jade, Soochow jade, New jade, Olive jade – serpentinite;
- Oriental alabaster, Mexican jade – calcite;
- Swiss jade, Jasper jade, Oregon jade – jasper;
- Metajade – glass;
- Silver Peak jadeite – malachite;
- Amazon jade, Colorado jade – microcline, amazonite;
- Alaska jade, Pectolite jade – pectolite;
- Japanese jade – prehnite;
- Styrian jade – pseudophite;
- Regal jade, Indian jade, Imperial yu – quartz (aventurine);
- Fukien jade, Honan jade, Manchurian jade, Shanghai jade – talc (steatite or soapstone).
For more details, please, refer to the article by Jill M. Hobbs (1982).
Let’s describe the most common fakes and physical properties that will let us differentiate them from natural jade.
Quartzite is a monomineralic rock typically dyed to imitate the highest-value green and lavender jade. It is tough to make an identification with the naked eye, but a quick test on a refractometer and checking specific gravity will easily spot the fake.
Serpentinite is a metamorphic rock of deep green color that looks almost identical to nephrite and jadeite. Serpentinite often has inclusions of black and opaque chromite minerals that can help spot it. Also, serpentinite is a soft rock and, in most cases, can be scratched by a knife.
Marble is also a rock composed mainly of calcite and dolomite. Fakes made of marble tend to have a coarser texture than natural jade. This coarser texture and possible banding patterns can help make it easier to identify. Additionally, marble is soft and can be scratched by a knife.
Chalcedony seems to have more yellowish hues than jadeite. Refractive index and specific gravity tests can easily separate it from jade.
Maw-sit-sit is another vivid green aggregate of several minerals: chromite, kosmochlor, symplectite, chlorite, albite, serpentine, and zeolites. Maw-sit-sit can be monochromatic, mottled, or spotted, with black or white spots or veinlets. Only laboratory investigation can differentiate between jade and Maw-sit-sit. Luckily the last is rare on the market now.
Hydrogrossular garnet, an aggregate, makes a convincing jadeite substitute in its green to bluish green colors and is a common presence on the market. Impurities usually show up as dark spots. Its RI makes it easy to separate from jade.
How Can you Tell if Jade Has Been Dyed?
Dyed jade can be identified under a microscope or loupe by the presence of patches of colorant concentrations between crystal grains.
Commonly, the dye can be traced by glowing under UV light, while natural primary colors of jade will stay inert. Also, the paint may be spotted near the holes of beads.
TIP: If you want to know more about how to spot dyed jade check out the complete guide in the article below:
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Tell & Identify if Jade is Dyed
Difference Between Real and Fake Jade
The main difference between real and fake jade made of glass and plastic is its hardness. Real jade is harder and cannot be scratched by a knife and glass. Fake jade made of glass can have bubbles. Fakes can have zones of dye concentration and tiny conchoidal fractures. Natural jade doesn’t glow under UV light.
|6 – 7 on the Mohs scale. It cannot be scratched by a knife and a piece of glass.
|Fake jade made of plastics or serpentinite can be scratched by a knife and a selection of glass.
|Bubbles under magnification
|No bubbles in real jade.
|Bubbles can be present in fake jade made of glass. Visible under magnification.
|Zones of dye concentration
|Real jade can also have parts of intensive zoning and parts free of vivid colors. But you will never see concentrations of colorant between mineral grains.
|Fake jade, represented by different minerals or rocks, can have dye concentration between mineral grains, visible under magnification.
|Conchoidal chips and fractures
|Real jade is extremely tough. No conchoidal fractures can be observed both on raw material and in holes of beads.
|Fake jade made of glass or quartz can have typical conchoidal chips and fractures.
|Glow under UV light
|Real jade is inert and doesn’t glow under UV. Occasionally some specimens of lavender jade can have a weak glow.
|Glowing under UV light reveals mostly stabilized, dyed, and impregnated low-quality jade. Dyed glass, resins, and plastic will also glow light-blue and chalky colors under UV light.
TIP: Jade is the most valuable gemstone in Asian culture. The combination of jade’s history and magnificent appearance makes the stone so valuable and popular. Find out more in the article below:
6 Factors Why Jade is Valuable (+ Prices for Colors & More)
Natural jade is one of the most complex gemstones on the market. Many different materials have been used to fake jade.
Glass and plastic are still the most common imitations on the market. Other materials are dyed quartz, marble, serpentinite, hydrogrossular garnet, chalcedony, jasper, malachite, amazonite, and talc.
Natural jade can be very challenging to differentiate from fakes, even for experienced buyers. Moreover, buying rough boulders and pebbles doesn’t expel fakes.
It is always better to buy from professional and trustworthy dealers and ask about the deposit and locality the stone came from, and ideally to purchase jade with a gemological report.
There are many tips on spotting a fake jade, but some, like touch, heaviness, and sound tests, are pretty subjective and cannot help you 100% sure.
5 main differences will help you to spot a fake:
- Hardness. Genuine jade is hard and cannot be scratched by a knife or a piece of glass.
- Bubbles under magnification it is a sign of fake made of glass.
- Zones of dye concentration between mineral grains signify dye.
- Conchoidal chips and fractures are also a sign of fakes.
- UV light test. In most cases, a sample that glows under UV light is a fake or treated low-quality jade.
We strongly encourage you to test jade in gemological laboratories or local jewelry professionals. Only a test with the help of professional instruments like various spectrometers can give you an exact response.
TIP: Rock collecting can mean anything between picking up the odd rock on a hike and keeping a full mineral display shelf at home. Find out the complete guide on starting rock collecting in the article below:
How to Start Rock Collecting? Complete Guide for Beginners