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For Depression Glass Lovers: Jadeite Jewelry

Apr 28, 2023 | jewelry materials

I’ve had a love of jadeite since my teens in the 1980s, when a morning of garage sales were routed using the newspaper classifieds and an impossible-to-refold map.

I got lost a lot. But in between, I fell in love with depression glass.

Jen's fire-king jadeite collection matched with Anchor Hocking forest green. Wall paint is Benjamin Moore Rust.

I know now that thrill of the hunt has something to do with dopamine, and the certainty that every other car on the road at that ungodly Saturday morning hour was headed to the same estate sale I was, and they were all looking for the same thing as me: Fire King jadeite.

This was when the hunt was so fun: before Ebay, before Google image search, before shopgoodwill.com.

And all before Martha Stewart made Jadeite popular and drove up the price to a billion light years away from the twenty-five cent finds that were the soul of 1980s thrifting.

But now jadeite means something a little different for me, and it’s one of the reasons I have a kinship with Art Deco jewelry.

Art Deco’s iconic green is the green of jadeite.

Here’s a quick and painless introduction to Art Deco era jewelry’s 10 most prominent features.


That green stone in Art Deco jewelry? It’s Jadeite.

The striking color combination jade green and black was often used in Art Deco jewelry, interior design, and fashion. Green and black together made it into bathrooms and kitchens, onto dishes and dresses. It’s an iconic pairing that always brings to mind Art Deco. But what inspired the groundswell of affection in the 1920s for that perfect mossy green? The answer is probably jadeite.

Typically, the natural green stone used in Art Deco jewelry is jadeite, a very hard and rare type of jade that comes in a wide range of colors. The most valuable form of jadeite is ‘imperial jade’, which offers a very deep shade of green. Jadeite is the rarer and more valuable of the two types of jade. The second type of jade, nephrite, is less valuable, but well-known in its own right as a canvas for carving.

Interested in another kind of green jewelry? Here’s a post about frogs and jewelry design.

Cartier, jadeite and Art Deco jewelry

Cartier is the most famous jewelry design house to incorporate jade into its pieces during the Art Deco era. It frequently added color accents via enameling. Red and black were the most popular colors for Cartier to add to its jade pieces.

This beautiful jade, red and black champlevé enamel gold brooch also features seed pearls. Featuring enamel throughout - opaque red and black
Cartier jadeite brooch | image © Wilson’s Estate Jewelry

This beautiful jade, red and black champlevé enamel gold brooch also features seed pearls. Signed Cartier, the jade is now described by Wilson’s Estate Jewelry as “Translucent medium yellowish green with light pastel green mottling.”

CARTIER ART DECO JADE AND ENAMEL GOLD BRACELET, circa 1940s image copyright Craig Evan Small.
Cartier jadeite bracelet | Image © Craig Evan Small

This Cartier jade bracelet is carved instead of smooth, but shows a similar black and red enameling. Red and black paired with jade green is a now-iconic Art Deco style color combination.

Cartier jadeite and diamond brooch | Image © Christie's
Cartier jadeite and diamond brooch | Image © Christie’s

This Art Deco era (circa 1925) jade, diamond (old, single, and baguette cut), and black enamel clip brooch went for over $20,000 in 2022. Signed Cartier London.

Suzanne Belperron & Jadeite

SET OF ART DECO JADE, CORAL AND ENAMEL JEWELRY, SUZANNE BELPERRON , ca. 1935
Belperron bracelet, earring set of jade, coral and enamel, ca. 1935
Image © Christie’s

Jadeite and contemporary Art Deco costume jewelry

Kenneth Jay Lane (KJL) loved to incorporate cast, simulated resin made to look like jadeite in his Asian-inspired costume jewelry. As early as the 1960s, Lane featured Chinese motifs like dragons and tigers, and used faux carved jade in beaded necklaces.

Keneth Jay Lane faux jade and rhinestone dragon brooch. Image © 1st Dibs
KJL faux jade & rhinestone dragon brooch. Image © 1st Dibs

Earlier in his career, Kenneth Jay Lane was head designer for American Hattie Carnegie, who often used simulated jade in her jewelry collections, too. This necklace incorporates the image of Buddha, a well-known “exotic” motif.

Read a full post about other “exotic” (aka non-Western) influences on Art Deco jewelry.

Or, ever wonder about American jewelry design in the 1920s and 1930s?

American Hattie Carnegie faux jade necklace
American Hattie Carnegie faux jade necklace

Chinese motifs incorporated into carved jade Art Deco and mid-century costume jewelry include:

  • Pi (Huaigu), the flat disc with a hole in the center that is the Chinese symbol for eternity
  • zodiac signs (dogs, monkeys, tigers, snakes etc)
  • dragons
  • Buddha
  • a knot (like a Celtic knot)

What stones could be mistaken for Jadeite?

Green stones that might have been used in Art Deco jewelry in addition to jadeite are most likely either chrysoprase or aventurine, both forms of chalcedony quartz.

I offer the loveliest shade of green chalcedony solitaire earrings and necklace in the shop.

Green chalcedony is more affordable than real jadeite, and perfectly matched to the Fire-King jadeite restaurant ware. This is the author’s collection of jadeite matched with Anchor Hocking Forest Green.

Also often mistaken for imperial jade, chrysoprase is a semi-precious quartz gemstone that offers shades of yellow and green. Chrysoprase can be carved.

Chrysoprase ring by Elizabeth Locke 
Image ©Wilson Estate Jewelry
Chrysoprase ring by Elizabeth Locke
Image ©Wilson Estate Jewelry

Aventurine is yet another chalcedony quartz natural gemstone that can be mistaken for jadeite. However, aventurine has sparkling inclusions that create a glittering effect, called aventurescence.

Green Art Deco aventurine ring for sale on 1st Dibs. Image © 1st Dibs.
Green Art Deco aventurine ring. Image © 1st Dibs

Finally, jadeite can also be simulated using synthetic material like resin or plastic.

How can you tell if green jade is real?

Because jade is a mineral, it should feel like a stone: cold, dense and solid. It should have a relative heft to it. Fake jade is made from glass or plastic, which is more lightweight than real jade.

Is all jade translucent?

Christie’s Auction House Guide to Jade explains: “One of the reasons jadeite is so prized for jewelry is what is referred to as its ‘water content’ in Chinese. Its crystalline structure enables rays of light to penetrate the stone easily, to reflect and refract light. This translucency makes it look as if there is water inside the stone itself, which is what makes jadeite so special.”

Is jadeite worth anything?

Jadeite is one of the more coveted and most valuable of the semi-precious gemstones on today’s market. Jadeites that are highly translucent and/or rich green are the most valuable. Nephrite – the other form of jade – isn’t worth anything as a stone necessarily, but may have been carved and therefore worth something for what it represents.

Bulgari jade and diamond necklace. Image © Christie's
Image © Christie’s

This Bulgari jade necklace scheduled to be auctioned by Christie’s in May 2023 is estimated to bring in $3,000,000-5,000,000. As is true with pearls, the bead necklace is the most valuable and sought-after style of jadeite jewelry because it’s difficult to match the quality and size of the beads.

Why is carved jade so popular?

Carved jade is popular, in short, because jade can be carved. In addition to its translucent qualities, and its unique green color, jade is tough. Tough is a term used to describe stone that can take some pressure. Whereas diamonds and emerald are “brittle” and will break when pressure is applied, jade can take the pressure required to carve it.

Carved jade flower and seed pearl ring | Image © A Brandt & Sons
Carved jade flower and seed pearl ring | Image © A Brandt & Sons

Does jade come in other colors?

Jade is best known for its translucent greens, but it can also appear in hues that are red, yellow, off-white (called “mutton-fat”), grey, brown, black, and even a light shade of purple like lavender. It can also be colorless.

These images are from Kathy Flood’s 4th Ed. of Warman’s Jewelry. She offers an entire chapter on Jadeite.

Is it jadeite?

This colorful bowtie brooch is everything great about Art Deco jewelry: the gorgeous color combinations of black and orange-red, black and green, and red and green, plus a pop of blue. Its geometry is also quintessential Deco.

But is the green jadeite? What do you think?

Colorful Art Deco synthetic bowtie brooch of black and green. Is it jadeite?
Colorful Art Deco synthetic bowtie brooch of black and green. Is it jadeite?

Is collecting real antique Art Deco jewelry pieces outside your budget? You can find fabulous, affordable Art Deco-inspired jewelry that is contemporary but still evokes the spirit of the age right here at minusOne. Stay and buy yourself something nice.

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