Jade in fact describes two minerals, jadeite and nephrite, with a very similar appearance. Both are very hard, varying in color from milky white to dark green. Their shared name comes from the Spanish piedra de la ijada (literally “stone of the flank”), as the conquistadors who discovered it in America believed it could cure diseases of the kidney (“kidney” is also the origin of the word nephrite).
The Chinese adopted jade over four thousand years ago to sculpt jewelry and precious accessories, as did pre-Colombian American civilizations shortly after. Since then sculptors and jewelers have continued to carve and polish jade.
Both the Mongol emperors and the Indian maharajahs were passionate about jade. It was also very much in vogue in the twentieth century, promoted by the Art Deco style.
Cartier transformed jade into some truly marvelous creations, matching it with other precious materials to form bold color combinations. In 1928 an American magazine article remarked on this: “Parisian women look longingly in Cartier’s window, where the new bracelet collections are displayed, blending jade with lapis, jade with sapphire or jade with topaz.”
However, jade goes back much further in Cartier’s history, with the first jade jewelery dating back to 1913. Jadeite: double silicate of aluminum and sodium. Nephrite: basic silicate of magnesium and calcium with ferric iron. Hardness: 6 to 6.5 (nephrite) and 7 (jadeite). Mexico, New Zealand, China.