In the long history of mankind’s fascination with adornment, few stones can rival jade’s enduring appeal. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but we’ve been coveting jade for far longer. The distinctive green stone can be traced back to the prehistoric era, when Stone Age civilizations carved the durable material into everything from weapons to talismans. Now, a crop of contemporary designers have circled back to alluring jade, featuring it in jewels that cast this historic stone in a new light.
Jade’s name comes from the Spanish piedra de ijada or “stone of the pain in the side” so-called because Spanish colonizers found that Mayans and Aztecs employed jade as a remedy for various maladies. But it was in Ancient China that jade was elevated to high art, carved into intricate sculptures and prized for its pure green hue. It also did (and still does) symbolize prosperity, success, and luck in China.
“It was a symbol of wealth and power for millennia,” says Sylva & Cie creative director Sylva Yepremian, whose latest collection features jade in shades ranging from celadon to kelly green, accented with pink sapphires and diamonds.
“It has that glow of history,” says David Rees, cofounder of Ten Thousand Things, adding that it’s one of the few opaque stones that has a striking natural color. “And I don’t think it’s a very particular shade; it’s good with a lot of complexions and it goes with a lot of colors…[it’s] a classic, neutral green.”
While rich, emerald-green jadeite is the most sought-after (and valuable) variety, designers are embracing jade’s full color spectrum, from pale lavender to deep, inky black. More than any particular color, though, Rees says he looks for the stone’s unique translucency: “It’s almost like the light gets trapped inside. Even though it’s an opaque stone, it has this ability to glow like a light.” That subtle, earthy radiance might be one reason why jade is enjoying newfound popularity—it’s a good match for the more casual dress code of the moment. And we could all use a good luck charm right about now.