Jadeite is a mineral often known by the more common name 'jade'. Jewellery and ornamental carvings have been made from jade throughout history. Mayans and Aztecs regarded jade highly and the name ‘jade’ originates from the Spanish ‘piedra de ijada’, meaning ‘stone for the pain in the side’. It was named after Spanish explorers saw natives of Central America holding pieces of jade to their sides, believing that it could cure ills. The Chinese refer to jade as 'Yu' which translates to 'heavenly' or 'imperial'; it was first mined in North Eastern China around 6000 BC. Jade was very precious in many ancient societies, and was often worth even more than gold. From a scientific angle, all rough cuts of jadeite and nephrite are called jade.
The jadeite and nephrite forms of jade are almost identical, and it may be very difficult to distinguish the two. In fact, they were thought to be one mineral type until 1863, when it was discovered that they are scientifically different. Jadeite jade is the rarer and most valuable form of jade; the most common colour for both forms of jade is pale green.