To the ancient Maya jade was even more valuable than gold. Jade was considered sacred, a symbol of eternity and good fortune.
For millennia, it played a crucial role in the culture of the Maya and other ancient Americans, but the Spanish lusted after gold and silver, and within fifty years of the Conquest, the source of Maya jade had been forgotten. Centuries later, archaeologists excavating Maya cities uncovered stunning jades carved with the images of gods and kings, evoking all the mystery and power of a bygone civilization. But where had the stone come from? Some guessed China, others Atlantis—but no one could say for sure, because for the only time in history, a civilization’s most valuable resource had been lost.
Jadeite was the hardest available substance for use in weapons and tools until steel was invented, therefore it was a mineral of high industrial and economic value until recent times.
The presence of jadeite artifacts throughout the Americas suggests extensive trade routes during ancient times although it was only recently determined that all of the jade came from one area.
In 2005 Hurricane Stan caused massive flooding in the Motagua River valley exposing ancient Maya jade mines. An American couple discovered the existence of these mines after years of searching.
There are two forms of jade commonly found in jewelry today: jadeite and the softer nephrite (found in Myanmar and often dyed to enhance the color). Jadeite is the more rare and is the more highly-prized gem for its vivid colours and almost luminous, glassy appearance.
Guatemalan jadeite occurs in a wide variety of colors. Among the most prized being blue and lavender, referred to as lilac or "lila" in Spanish. Black jade is also popular with jade connoisseurs. Nearly every shade of green jadeite is found in Guatemala, from light mint green to well saturated medium to dark green. Rarely a pale grayish white jade is also found. It should be noted that Guatemalan jadeite can carry a degree of translucency called Princess Jade that permits light to shine through the stone.
Jade is said to bless whatever it touches, serving mankind across the globe for nearly 6,000 years.