If quartz crystals represent perfection in the world of minerals, the transformative stones demonstrate the process by which perfection is accomplished. In Western terminology, this large group of stones is called chalcedony. It includes agate, chalcedony, jasper, and onyx. The stones are fundamentally the same--that is, a fibrous subcategory of quartz, all with similar hardness and all with a chemical composition of silicon dioxide. For the ancient Chinese, however, who saw consciousness and spirit in the natural world, the patterns, colors, and configurations these stones presented were indications of a process of refinement and evolution.
Most of the transformative stones form at the Source/Yuan, or igneous level, but their appearance shows a process of metamorphosis. The stones are quartz, but they do not form perfect crystals. They demonstrate a slow evolutionary process as the Earth adapts to change. They also represent a core tension of human life--the relationship between Water, our Essence, and its requirement to discover and express our deepest self, and Earth, with its requirements of living in society. Looking at the agates, with their banded, speckled, or patchy appearances, we can imagine the struggles and conflicts the stones experience during their creation--as they melt and solidify, compress and release, fuse and separate. Eventually the stones refine to become the strong, definitive colors of the jaspers; the translucent, homogenous colors of the chalcedonies; or the shining, intensely black onyx, which represents our deepest Essence: the Water energy of the Kidneys. The group as a whole matures to its ultimate perfection in the subtlety and elegance of jade, a stone held in the highest regard since the earliest history of the Chinese.
The use of jade in Chinese culture dates to the Neolithic period, when ancient populations considered the nephrite jade they were able to mine locally to be inherently more valuable than gold or silver. They used the stone to shape ritual objects and tools, and the quality of the carving gives evidence to a highly sophisticated civilization. Nephrite jade is extremely durable, as demonstrated by the many jade artifacts unearthed that date back to more than 1,000 years before the Common Era.
In the nineteenth century, a beautiful jade from Burma became popular among the royalty and Confucian scholars. It had clearer and bolder colors than the indigenous nephrite jade, and the bright emerald-green color, called imperial green, was much sought after. This is jadeite. It has a different chemical composition than nephrite jade, but this difference was unknown until later in the century.
Jade is associated with the upper dan tian. We use agates, jasper, and chalcedony for treating illness, but jade is an aspirational stone. It represents the possibility to ascend out of petty, selfish concerns and to exhibit qualities of behavior that benefit all humans.