Don Kay on Jadeite Jade

Mr. Don Kay

Mr. Don Kay

The DC GIA Chapter spent an enticing evening in November with Mr. Don Kay, who gave us insights on appraising Jadeite Jade.

Mr. Kay let us know that most of the quality jadeite comes from Burma, though some comes from Guatemala and Siberia—but the quality is different.

North Burma is the site of the finest jadeite, and the mine is around 200 square miles so there is no danger of running out.


Jadeite is mined from mountains, as well as found alluvially, which tends to be the highest quality because the exterior layer is gone and the pebble is smooth.

Jadeite’s quality is first determined by color, then texture. Green is the most important color, while the rarest is lavender. Red, yellow and ice jade are growing most rapidly in value. A smooth, even texture is most desirable. Black (yes, black jadeite) and gray jadeite value is approximately that of commercial quality green jadeite.


The finest material is dedicated to cabochons. The ideal proportions for a cabochon are 1x2x3 (depth, width, length), and preferably a double cabochon as well. An orange rind texture is typical for jadeite jade polish, though cutters are now able to achieve a mirror polish using diamond dust.

Commercial quality jadeite is mostly what comes in for appraisal. Flat top cabochons are still desirable. Oval cabochons are best, while marquise and pear cabochons have less value. Round cabochons are rare, and usually reused from snuff bottle tops.

Beads, bangles and drops have a great waste factor, so their value goes up faster (beads typically have a 50% waste factor). Smooth trumps carved material in value in jadeite, and cracked cabochons have less value because they don’t sell.


Those of you who missed Don Kay’s lecture missed a wealth of information as well as gorgeous slides on jadeite.

Don KayNov15

We should all keep in mind that Mason Kay is not only generous in sharing their knowledge on jadeite, but they are also purveyors of untreated jadeite and their lab is indispensable for testing jadeite for treatment and providing appraisals.

Meeting Notes Submitted by Etta Marie Dotson, PhD, GG, ISA AM
Photos by Melanie Marts, GG

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1 Response to Don Kay on Jadeite Jade

  1. peter pao says:

    Smart Man!

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