Jade, or Nephrite, is a very hard stone which varies from white to a rich green, some specimens being translucent and some (particularly the New Zealand variety) being opaque. It is very highly esteemed by the Chinese, who wear it carved in the form of the Bat, Pear, Stork, etc., as Talismans for longevity. (Its qualities and attributes being fully described in Chapter V (The Pear Charm - "Show Fu" - The Blue Gown For Longevity), Part I).
The finest Jade comes from China, and Jade is also found in New Zealand, Mexico, and Turkestan.
It has always been popular among Asiatics, who wear it for protection from accidents and injuries and against witchcraft.
Among the Greeks and Romans it was worn to avert Ophthalmia and Epilepsy, besides being universally regarded as peculiarly efficacious against stomach and kidney trouble, its name Nephrite being derived from a Greek word meaning kidney. Galen records that a necklace which he wore relieved him of stomach trouble, and its efficacy in this direction extended to South America, for when Pizzaro conquered Mexico he found the natives believed Jade beneficial for diseases of the kidneys; and Sir Walter Raleigh, in his discovery of Guiana, describes the inhabitants as using it both for stomach trouble and stone in the bladder. Humboldt also mentions it as being used for the same purpose by natives on both sides of the Orinoco.
Jade is essentially the stone of New Zealand, the Maoris regarding it as sacred, their famous Talisman, the Tiki, being invariably carved in Jade. The Tiki is worn round the neck as a protection from witchcraft, and consists of a grotesque representation of the human figure with the head bent either to the left or right, in a listening attitude, resting on the shoulder; it was regarded as a precious heirloom to be religiously handed down from father to son, elaborate precautions being taken to prevent the Tiki from falling into the hands of strangers, as it was believed to embody all the qualities and virtues of their ancestors, its burial with the last male member of a family being always insisted upon.
Several very fine specimens may be seen in the Ethnographical Gallery at the British Museum.