Difference between Jade and Jadeite

In Singapore, when people speak of Jade, they are actually talking about Jadeite. Why do they use Jade instead? This is because the saying has been passed down from older generations, and frequently, we learn such information from their parents or even grandparents. Thus the terminology is being used loosely.

However, in order get a natural piece of jadeite, which is commonly called as jade, we need to know the difference between jade and jadeite.



In my point of view, I will put jade as a broad category that consist of many other stones whose Chinese name consist of the word 玉 (meaning: Jade). From the conversation that I had with Jade lovers and Jade dealers, they told me that Chinese like to add the word ‘玉’ (meaning: jade) to the name of stones as long as the appearance of the stone is beautiful.

The word ‘beautiful’ would mean that after carving and polishing of the stone, the appearance of the craft is, in general, appealing.

Thus, from the above explanation, jade may consist of both nephrite and jadeite. However, the jade that most speak of and are looking for is, in actual fact, jadeite!

Therefore, buyers please be aware of such terminology difference, especially when you are travelling abroad and is tempted to get a piece of Jadeite. Below, I have a good example of what happened during one of my trips:

Last year, there was a sudden increase in the awareness of black coloured jadeite. During the trip, I overheard a guy asking for 墨玉 (mo yu, black jade) from a vendor, and the vendor took out pieces of black jade for the guy to choose from. However, after the guy had bought the jade and showed to a stone lover,  the stone lover told him that it is not the black jade that he is looking for. In fact the actual stone name of the ‘black jade’ that the person had bought is called Serpentine. After that, I became aware that in Chinese speaking countries, they are very particular on the terminology, if a guy loosely uses black jade, the vendor will present him Serpentine (which is commonly known as black jade in countries like China and Hong Kong). In fact what the guy want was actually 墨翠 (mo cui, black jadeite).

I decide to share this story as I think that most of us don’t know the difference between jade and jadeite. I hope that story helps you to understand the importance of knowing the terminology clearly!


On the other hand, jadeite is a subcategory of jade. The name jadeite was given to this stone is due to it being harder than than other jade stone. For jade stones that are not as hard as jadeite (硬玉, hard jade), they are commonly known as Nephrite(软玉, soft jade).


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