History of Jade in Guatemala

Jade has a long history of more than 3000 years in Mesoamerica, the area covering most of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  Ancient civilizations value appreciated jadeite jade stones as ornaments, tools, and funerary and ritual objects. The first civilization to use jadeite jade where the Olmecs. Later Jade were used by Mayas and Aztecs and Toltecs.

Jade represented immortality, prosperity, breath, life, luck and longevity. It figures in many words other prominently in many myths and folktales. Some Eastern traditions insist that it also brings wealth and good fortune.


"JADE" is a generic term which describes two different silicate rocks, the Pyroxene is called "Jadeite", and Nephrite is classified as an Amphibole. Though superficially similar, they are quite different in terms of their mineralogical characteristics. Jadeite is the harder and denser of the two and possesses a richer, more brilliant range of colors. Nephrite is a carving quality stone, found in many places in the world.

For these reasons, and because of its scarcity, jadeite is the most precious form of jade and is found in tons of bright apple and Imperial greens, prized by the ancient Maya kings and Chinese emperors alike. Guatemalan jade is jadeite jade. Nephrite and Jadeite are both white in their pure state. All colors of jade (from light greens to black) are created by slight inclusions of other minerals or metals such as Chromium, copper and Titanium.  This spaniards  described it as "Piedra de hijada" (stone for the loins or kidneys) and over time "hijada" became "jade".

Our Olmec, Maya and Aztec ancestors, lived in Mesoamerica. They used the same mining zones to make precious pieces of jewelry and burial artifacts. The jade mining zone was lost for more than 500 years, just after the Spanish conquest began. Archeologist, Mary Lou Ridinger and Jay Ridinger discovered the lost jadeite jade sources in 1974.  An article about the Ridingers discoveries appears in National Geographic in 1987. Other well known media have covered the story such as: Discovery Channel, CNN iReport, The New York Times, The Lapidary Journal, and Gem and Geology Magazine.

If you are more interested in the story behind Mayan jadeite jade, I recommend you read the book “Stone of Kings” by Gerard Helferich. In “Stone of kings” you may find an accurate modern interpretation. "A compelling Tale... This well-focused and well told account brings America's most mythologyzed gemstome into sharp relief" - Wall Street Journal