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Smooth, elegant and stylish, jade enjoys a significant heritage across many classical civilizations, from the Mayans to the Maoris. In ancient Egypt, jade symbolized love and inner peace and the Aztecs prized it above gold. It is, however, the Chinese who today remain the foremost producers of decorative jade jewelry. For centuries, bangles carved from jade have been presented to newborn babies in China, the closed circle design representing eternity and jade offering protection from evil spirits. A number of classic designs have evolved over the years.
As a hard mineral, jade has natural durability and is tough enough to be carved into intricate one-piece bangles that withstand the ravages of time. In March 2010, Christie's sold a fifth century Chinese jade bangle for a staggering $266,500. The true value of jade, however, lies in its beauty. With its gentle coloring and subtle luster, it provides designers the medium from which to craft elegant semitranslucent bangles.
The non-faceted nature of jade means that bangles can be carved from a single piece of stone and styled fully rounded, flat on the inside or intricately carved. Traditionally, motifs of mythical creatures or spiritual symbols are used to adorn solid cuff bangles, which can be slim or deep on the wrist. It is important to measure correctly if you are buying this type of bangle. Two-part bangles use a single hinge and a clasp of gold or silver to make them easier to put on.
Type of stone
Two different minerals are used in the manufacture of jade jewelry. Most bangles are crafted from widely available nephrite, while the more expensive, finer pieces use jadeite, a rarer stone. Nephrite is the tougher of the two stones, allowing for more delicate carvings. Imperial jade is the name given to the highly sought after emerald green jadeite, whose color comes from deposits of chromium.
While most people think of jade as being green, the two types of stone provide the jewelry designer with a variety of hues to choose from. Depending on its mineral content, the color of jade varies from creamy white to lavender, red and even black. Of the two stones, jadeite displays the widest range of colors, with deposits of iron producing depths of brown and manganese creating violet shades. Nephrite varies from classic pale green to watery white.