For the Chinese, the Stone of Heaven – more precious than gold – is juhk (Cantonese), yù (Mandarin), or jade. It is also known as the “stone for eternity” because its hardness and durability are associated with immortality. Typically vivid emerald, it comes in all shades of green and colours from white to red. Han dynasty emperors wore jade pendants, ingested jade powder and were interred in jade burial suits. Baby gifts today still include jade bangles or astrological animal charms, symbolising wisdom and affording protection. Hong Kong’s Jade Market is on many tourists’ must-see list. It’s well documented that jade is similarly valued in Maori and New Caledonia cultures. Its presence in ancient Europe is scarcer: although known since the Neolithic era, and used in weapons and worship, it was sidelined for centuries as a result of metal production and a Roman belief that it is unlucky. Western interest in jade revived in the 16th century. One account of the English word’s origins involves the Portuguese, the first European explorers in Asia, who encountered jade objects in Canton and Macau in the late 16th century. They named it pedra de la mijada , or “stone to urinate”, after learning that, when held against the midriff, it helped to expel kidney stones. Mijada became jada then jade. In the Americas, Moctezuma, king of the Aztecs, gave Spanish conquistadores a gift for their king that they described as piedras verdes, “green stones” or (incorrectly) esmeraldas, “ emeralds”. A 12-volume work on Aztec knowledge from the mid 1500s details the uses of these stones, including wearing them as wrist beads and ingesting jade scrapings in water for their medicinal properties. In 1565, the name piedra de la yjada (precursor to ijada ), meaning “stone of the loin/flank”, was used by Nicolò Monardes, a Spanish doctor of Genoese origin, to describe the Mesoamerican practice of hanging jade amulets about their person to treat colic and expel kidney stones. Walter Raleigh’s 1596 report of his exploration in Guiana (modern Guayana, in Venezuela) uses the Spanish term piedras hijadas . The Spanish l’(h)ijada was later translated to the French l’ejade , then erroneously le jade, and it is this form that entered the English language in 1721. Whatever form it comes in – whether Chinese nephrite (named for the Latin lapis nephriticus, from the Greek for “kidney stone”), Mesoamerican or Burmese jadeite – and whatever its colour and translucency, jade’s value as a source of beauty and well-being across space and time is unrivalled.