Wondering how to know real jade vs fake jade?
You're in the right place.
In this Learning Guide, I'll answer the following questions about this stone.
- Is real jade always green?
- What is nephrite jade?
- How can I test if jade is real??
What is Jade?
Jade is best known as a bright green gemstone. Unlike other stones, jade stones aren't faceted. They are translucent to opaque, but never transparent . There are authentic jade gemstones, treated jade, gemstones with jade content, and imitation jade jewelry pieces.
You might not see jade faceted, but that doesn't mean it doesn't belong in a jewelry collection. It's not as popular in the western world, but is prized by Southeast Asian countries.
Jade jewelry pieces are usually beads, brooches, or jade bangles. Jade is also used ornamentally and made into carvings.
Different type of jade gemstones may be named according to location, but there are two main varieties of jade.
Jadeite Jade is high quality jade. It's the most expensive form of green jade. Imperial jade is the best color, a rich green shade. Jadeite jade is more likely to be find as translucent to opaque stones. It's not found transparent.
Imperial Jade from authentic jadeite is rare, so you should be skeptical when you buy jade for a cheaper price. It might be advertised as true jade, but it's common to dye jade to get that imperial green color. Jade without treatment should cost more than treated jade gemstones.
There are many hues of green jadeite jade, from pale green to olive jade. Many people don't know that a jade gemstone may come in other color varieties like yellow, brown, lilac, black, red, orange, and even white jade.
Nephrite jade is real jade, but not considered as valuable as real jadeite jade. It occurs in less color varieties, but still more than just green nephrite jade.
Green nephrite isn't seen as bright and intense as jadeite. You can find yellow, brown, mutton brown, yellow green, olive green brown and grayish brown.
Since these aren't the most desirable colors for jewelry, nephrite jade is a less expensive stone. Nephrite jade isn't commonly treated by dyes like jadeite, but can be subjected to other color enhancing treatments. Though not overly expensive, the price of a nephrite jade carving may increase.
There are other forms of jade that include the stone as part of its content. One of the most popular forms of jade on the market today is Turkish purple jade.
Despite its name, Turkish purple jade contains about 40-60% of real jade content. Thus, many people argue whether or not it should be called jade. Lilac purple jadeite is very rare and more expensive, but Turkish purple jade doesn't contain any of that.
Xiuyan jade gemstones are comprised of nephrite jade and another gemstone called serpentine. This jade is considered traditional jade in China and has been used since ancient times. When you buy jade from China, this is likely to be the type they'll offer if you don't specify.
Serpentine jade is a real stone, but shouldn't command prices of jadeite. Serpentine isn't an expensive stone. You might find these under trade names like Olive jade, Korean jade, or New jade.
What is Fake Jade?
Before we get into imitation jade and misleading trade names, I want to clarify the difference between treated jade and untreated jade. If a piece of jade has been treated to enhance its natural color, it's still a genuine piece of jade. Artificial treatments don't make jade fake, they bring down the cost and value.
Color Enhanced Jade is Real Jade
We already talked about how jadeite jade is often dyed to give it a brighter green hue. Because of its high density, nephrite jade isn't subjected to dyes. However, there are other ways the industry uses to enhance genuine jade stones.
Jadeite is subjected to two different types of color treatments. Along with being dyed, polymer impregnation can also be done. The two treatments are often done together.
Real jade gems are classified as type A, B, or C jade. If you are particular about buying real jade without treatments, you should buy from a reputable dealer with a gem certificate.
Read also: 4 Grading Labs to Avoid
Type A Jade
If a piece of jade is classified as Type A jade, it means it hasn't had chemical treatment and is natural jadeite. It's possible it may have had a wax coating to enhance color, but it doesn't depreciate value.
Type B Jade
If it's classified as Type B Jade, it means the jade stone has been chemically bleached or had polymer impregnation.
Type C Jade
Type C Jade is also real jade, but it has been dyed.
Type B+C Jade
This means it is real jade has been both dyed and subjected to bleaching or other treatments.
I mentioned before that many jade stones can go through both dye and polymer impregnation. Stones like this will have a hybrid jade classification.
You'll want to look out for doublet jade. There are doublets of opal stones, which includes a piece of the original stone. For doublets, a thin layer of legit jade is placed over another base. You'll find a lot of these kinds of stones in places like Kay or Zales.
Read also: Zales vs Kay
Fake Jade & Misleading Trade Names
A stone is considered fake jade if it's a different stone from another mineral family, or any other material. If it's being advertised as jade, but has a different internal structure, it is imitation jade, or fake.
Though jadeite comes in a variety of colors, the most commonly faked varieties are green Imperial jade and lilac jade.
Fake Jade vs Real Jade?
It can be hard to tell if jade is real if you're not an expert in the stone or a gemologist. However, there are ways you can tell if it is real jade. Some ways require observing the "jade piece", and others may require some equipment.
As always, make sure you buy natural jade with a gem certificate from a reliable lab. Certifications from a gemological laboratory is the best way to ensure if the actual stone hasn't had any treatments.
Fake Jade Gemstones
Gem imitations for fake jade can be any green or lilac stone that resembles real jadeite. The most common imitations for jade are serpentine, amazonite. malachite, aventurine, dyed quartz, and dyed chalcedony. These are all real gemstones, but not jade. Remember though, some serpentine has jade content in it.
Fake Jade Materials
Aside from the real stones above, imitation jade can come from other materials. The most common of these materials is glass.
Common Trade Names for Fake Jade
If you see any kind of descriptor before the word jade in a listing, be very cautious. There are many trade names used for both real and fake stones of every gem. Trade names have been used by the industry in an effort to make some lesser stones seem more enticing.
Technically, they are giving a trade name, so it's not illegal. More like misleading. It's up to the buyer to know the difference between the trade name vs real jadeite or nephrite.
Xiuang Jade, New Jade, Korean Jade — All serpentine jade, with contains 40%-60% nephrite.
- Mountain Jade — Contains no jade. Is actually high grade dolomite marble that has been dyed or color-enhanced.
- Transvaal Jade — Is actually grossular garnet.
- Australian Jade — The actual gemstone is chrysoprase.
- Indian Jade — The stone is green aventurine, not jade.
- Malaysia Jade — The stone is dyed chalcedony or quartz usually.
Read also: Chrysoprase vs Aventurine
How to Tell if Jade is Real
1. The Scratch Test
The scratch test is a common test used to tell if a gem is a real. The basis of this test is formed around the Mohs scale. The mineral scale of hardness determines scratchability, or resistance to dust and dirt.
Real jadeite stones have a hardness rating of 6.5-7. This is a fairly hard stone, but not impervious to scratches. By taking a steel tool, you can try to scratch the surface of your supposed jade piece. Nephrite is slightly softer than jadeite, but neither of them should be scratched by real steel.
If the stone does scratch, it may be another gemstone or material softer than 5 on the Mohs scale. Steel can scratch glass and it can cause residue from scratching if its fake jade.
2. The Sound Test
The sound test involves using a metal object and a piece of jade jewelry. Instead of scratching the stone's surface, you simply listen to the sound of you tapping on it. Genuine jade echoes in muted tones.
If you have a jade bracelet made out of glass or plastic beads, it will have a hollow sound, not an echo.
3. The Density Test
This test may also be called the Toss Test, but both of them are reliant on the density of jade. Though nephrite is more dense than jadeite, both are fairly heavy. When you throw it up in the air and catch it, it should have a bit of weight to it.
If it feels very light, it's likely glass or plastic. This isn't a surefire test for jade, as other gemstones can be heavy too.
4. The Light Test
Another method to determine real jade is use the light test. Authentic jade should have consistent color throughout the entire piece. A bright light is the perfect way to do this. Search for slight irregularities in the color. Jade has blemishes and may have small dents or imperfections.
If the piece is the exact same color throughout and looks close to perfect, check the price. If it's affordable, it's probably fake or enhanced. Jade also reflects light almost like water. If it doesn't look like that, it's probably not jade.
An easy way to answer "Is this jade real?" is to observe the stone. If you know what to look for, it can help you sort out the fake stones. If you're looking at a jade piece and notice any air bubbles, it's not authentic.
A jade stone or carving may have pits or rough spots. Run your fingers around the piece and see if you can find any difference in texture. Also remember that real jade has a waxy luster, so if it's too smooth and perfect, it's likely not real.
How to Tell if Jade is Real: Conclusion
If you're not a jewelry expert, telling the difference between real jade vs fake jade can be difficult. But if you know what to look for, it might not be as hard as you might think.
Besides gem certificates, there are a few ways to tell if jade is real. The easiest ways are using the:
- Scratch Test
- Sound Test
- Density Test
- Light Test
- Observing the Stone
You should know that performing only one test isn't an accurate representation of the stone genuineness. You should perform multiple tests to come to a conclusion if you're still not sure.
Make sure you are aware of trade names that include the word, but not the stone. Indian or Australian jade are both key examples of stones without any jadeite content.
Lastly, make sure you know that serpentine jade and serpentine are two stone varieties. A serpentine stone doesn't have to contain any jade content.