Jade is an ornamental gemstone that is actually two different minerals, nephrite and jadeite. Jade is highly valued in China but has been used in many cultures and civilizations throughout the world. Prized for its beautiful green earth tones, many people dye cheaper stones to look like jade. This means the color or style has been enhanced through one of several processes.
In the mid-18th century, encrusted jade was often created by counterfeiters because it was so rare and valuable. This method of dyeing jade involves placing a piece of new jade in a smoker until the color of the jade reflects a shade similar to an ancient jade stone, almost a yellow brownish color. Then, add a layer of mortar to the jade and put it back in the smoker. This will produce an artificial encrustation. Then, before the mortar sets, crack the shell for a natural look. This was the very beginning of dyeing and creating jade.
Heating jade is a more common and more modern treatment to dyeing jade. Heating jade causes the color to lighten, darken or change completely as well as improve clarity and brightness. It is hard to detect a gemstone that has been heated to improve its look and grade unless analyzed by trained observers in a laboratory. Heating is irreversible and allows for absolute manipulation of color which can drive the price of jade higher than an unheated, less colorful stone.
Coating is a dying technique used for over 200 years. It involves applying a lacquer or film to improve the general appearance of the jade. This can fill in fractures and alter the color of the jade. This is done very carefully to fill in cracks so buyers can not see where the item was originally cracked. The lacquer used varies from very cheap to very expensive. To try this method yourself, take a cheaper gemstone, one you would not mind ruining and use clear fingernail polish to fill in cracks or impurities.
This dyeing technique was originally used on sapphires but has been adapted to most gemstones today. Again this technique uses heat as the primary source of transformation but this time chemicals are added which actually penetrate the gem. The most common chemical added is beryllium. Depending on the temperature and the amount of time the jade is exposed to the temperature, the chemicals penetrate the entire stone.
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