Close-up of jade pendant.
Close-up of jade pendant.

Jade, the common name for both nephrite and jadeite, is a hard, lustrous, colored stone that has been prized for both weapons and adornment for thousands of years. The stone is typically a shade of green but is also found in white, pink, yellow, brown, back and lavender or lilac. The ancient Chinese art of feng shui attributes the qualities of balance, harmony, creativity, protection and good fortune to jade. Traditionally, the Chinese believed that wearing a jade pendant invoked those properties, repelled harm and attracted wealth.

Harmony, Infinity and Protection

In China, jade is "yu," a gem reserved once for emperors and prized above diamonds and gold. Jade has been so valued for so long that many attributes are now attached to it: beauty, virtue, compassion, wisdom, protection, courage, prosperity, worth-beyond-price. Tiny jade Buddhas on red cords are tied around the necks of babies as protection from harm and charms for a long and prosperous life. Jade's toughness and beauty make it a strong symbol for harmony; a jade disc on a pendant symbolizes infinity, immortality and eternal bliss or heaven. Beijing 2008 Olympic medals were backed with jade rings. A jade pendant in the shape of a butterfly symbolizes no opposition that can't be overcome as well as immortality, a dragon symbolizes good luck, while pendants in the shape of a turtle, crane or elephant denote long life.

Maori Jade

Jade is also abundant in New Zealand, where the native Maori carved pendants of the stone. Designs were used to tell stories or to symbolize important stages in life like the birth of a child. For example, a pendant in the shape of a fish hook reflected the importance of fishing in Maori culture, while a twist design represented the love felt between two people or groups of people.