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A Lesson in Appraising Jade

Art Deco Jadeite Necklace

We’ve been working on an insurance appraisal for this wonderful platinum necklace with diamonds and jadeite from the 1920’s and realized the piece has a lot to teach about grading and valuing jade.

Jade is not well understood by many folks. If I told you that jade can be one of the most expensive of all gemstones, you would probably be surprised– some pieces sell for well into six figures. Even jewelers who really know their way around the faceted stones have a hard time with jade, especially when we don’t often see really good jade like this necklace.

Jade is actually two different minerals.  Nephrite is the one we see most often in ancient chinese carvings and artifacts as well as inexpensive jewelry items, while jadeite, discovered in Burma (Myanmar) in the early 1800’s, is the more beautiful and valuable type used in fine jewelry.

The more vivid and semi-transparent colors of jadeite, especially the emerald green known as “Imperial” or “Kingfisher” are highly sought after, especially in Asia and can sell for truly astounding prices. When we grade jade as a gemstone, we are usually talking about jadeite.

We grade quality in diamonds according to the 4 C’s.  When we grade quality in jadeite, besides grading the color as we do in other colored gemstones, we evaluate what I call “the 3 T’s”– translucence, texture, and tone.

Our Art Deco necklace is set with jadeite stones that blend well for color, but we can see different examples of the 3 T’s.

examples of the 3 T's

The carving of the gourd and cat is the highest quality in the necklace.  While the tone of the green could be described as medium with strong saturation, it also exhibits a nice degree of translucence and the material has a very even texture so that we don’t really see individual particles within the jade, just a really nice “smooth” appearance. Even without the backlighting, the jade has a “glow” where the rich color seems to come from within rather than just from the surface.

Jade Texture 1

The oval cabochon in the center of the necklace has a similar tone of green, but while the texture is even, you can see a slight graininess and the translucence is not at the same level, so the color is not as saturated.

Oval Jadeite with backlight

Oval Jadeite with backlight

The round cabs in the necklace have a similar hue of green that blends well with the two center stones, but the tone is variable with light and dark areas, the texture is somewhat grainy, and the translucence is less.

Round jadeite with backlight

Round jadeite with backlight

The carved jadeite is beginning to approach what we might call Imperial- the hue and tone of green and the even texture are about right, but  Imperial jadeite is semi-tranparent and the color saturation is more vivid. Overall, the necklace is a beautiful piece typifying the Art Deco design ethic and a wonderful example of the range and subtlety of jadeite.

james l. sweaney cga fga. gg

james l. sweaney cga fga. gg

james l. sweaney cga fga. gg

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  1. nancy wand wrote:

    I loved reading your lesson. I would like to ask how much you charge for an appraisal. I have a jade pendant that has a GIA grading showing it natural and undyed. thank you

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Colleen wrote:

    I have approximately between 3500 to 4000 pounds of Jade from Jade Cove in California.. Could you please tell me how much an appraisal would cost.

    Thank You,


    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink
  3. james l. sweaney cga fga. gg wrote:

    Colleen– No easy way to appraise what you have. The appraiser would have to come to you, instead of vice-versa. And buying and selling California jade is a very esoteric market, not many qualified to appraise it.

    To my knowledge, most of this material is used in sculpture rather than jewelry. If you are trying to sell, the best way is to research it yourself– you might start with some of the lapidary magazines, check the classifieds for sellers of California jade. Another resource would be rock and gem shows.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink
  4. Susan Parker wrote:

    I have four loose (possibly genuine) jadite or Nephrite oval cabochons that were given to me and really need to sell asap (if, in fact, they are of any value). From what I gather…there aren’t too many in your field all that knowledgeable in the quality/value of jade. My own research tells me I very likely do have the real thing (of lower-moderate quality). Anyhow…blahblahblah…I don’t have the mean$ of getting these appraised and am in dire need of selling ANYTHING I may have of value. Could you please just point me in the right direction of a reliable “gold/gem buyer” here in Riverside that I could try selling these to? I’d really appreciate it. Enjoyed your ‘Appraising Jade’ lesson…Thanks, Susan

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink
  5. james l. sweaney cga fga. gg wrote:

    Hi Susan– you are welcome to bring your cabochons by the shop. Not a strong market for loose cabs, but they may have some value if good quality.


    Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

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