Friday, May 22, 2015

My Journey Into Jade Culture

It began in Hong Kong. We visited the Jade Market, and while I found the bangles, bracelets and carved ornaments wonderful, I also sensed there might be something amiss.

Why? Because sellers' wares were all the same!

Hundreds of jade pi beads, Buddhas, mystic knots, bangles, of the same apple green color.

If I recall right, this color is among the most expensive kinds and yet we were able to haggle a 1000 HKD piece down to 300. 70% off a steal? Not really. What I found out later on after reading up is that many of the jade in these bazaars are inferior, acid-treated stones called B-grade jade. And yet the sellers will only tell you they are selling you "JADE". Perhaps they do not know what they are selling. Or perhaps they're really just shady.

According to a source: "The international jade trade is reeling from a proliferation of doctored stones that have appeared on the market since 1990, hurting sales and eroding confidence in the translucent green gem prized throughout Asia" (Denise Hamilton, p.D1). This has been going on for years.

The first jade object was found 12,000 years ago, in the Immortal Cave in Haicheng of Liaoning Province. Those small disks called pi were used in religious rites, for worshiping the God of Heaven. Jade was also believed to ward off evil. Furthermore, "the Chinese wore jade ornaments in daily life as an indication of rank and social status. For example, the households of many nobles and wealthy families were filled with all kinds of carved daily articles made from jade (Free China Journal p.1)."

It is sad to see that an object with such a rich and beautiful history has been reduced to this revenue-generating machine that has, literally, lost all substance and meaning...

These are the kinds of "jade" that are proliferating in the market. Details from Mason-Kay:

‘B’ Jade:

Acid-bleached, polymer-impregnated
jadeite jade

‘C’ Jade:

Acid-bleached, polymer-impregnated,
dyed jadeite jade - the dyed form of 'B' jade

‘D’ Jade:

Dyed jadeite jade
‘D’ jade almost always pre-dates
the polymer treatment era
(no polymer present)

There is no value in obtaining these items because they are, simply put, fakes--approximations of the historic stone. There are only two kinds of jade--Jadeite and Nephrite. And they sell for hefty prices depending on the quality.

I plan to learn more about this beautiful stone and obtain wonderful carved pieces for my own collection. To make sure I don't fall for these fakes, it's important to get from reputable sellers or get the pieces that are certified to be Grade A, untreated stones. I think I'll also invest in a 10x loupe magnifier to aid me in my quest for beauty.
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