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"Jade Culture ..."

Jade Culture, A Part of Chinese Culture,

Why Chinese CollectJadeite Jade ?

Jade Culture
The history of jade culture stretched back thousands of years. Gems such as diamond only entered Chinese culture relatively recently.Jade, regarded as the legacy of the stone age and the essence of the mountains and rivers, has occupied an important role in Chinese culture ever since the Neolithic period from B.C. 4000  Jade reflected many Chinese beliefs and values in ancient China. Scientific studies done on archaeological finds in  China have revealed that many prehistoric cultures existed before the three dynasties of Hsia, Shang,and Western Zhou (B.C 2000 to B.C. 771).  One of them (Western part of Liaoning to the Eastern part of Inner Mongolia) known as Hong Shan (Red Hill) Culture,where many jade artefacts were unearthed during the excavation, among them was the first jade dragon. (Pig head with a snake body). It can be considered to be the beginning of Jade Culture in China.
Jade culture - Red hilljade culture - redhill 001jade culture 001
In ancient China, nephrite jade was used for tools, weapons, and ornaments (Hansford, 1950). Jade’s antiquity contributes an aura of eternity to this gem. Members of the noble class valued jade highly.  Confucius once said  "A gentelman always carried a jade pendant, as a symbol of class and to remind him the virtues of a gentelman, since those virtues were found in jade".  He also praised jade as a symbol of righteousness and knowledge. According to Shuo Wen compiled by Xu Shen of the Eastern Han, the five virtues of jade were: benevolence, integrity, intelligence, bravery and trustworthiness which were exactly expected of a gentleman.  

Yu 玉  , the Chinese word for jade, is one of the oldest in the Chinese language; its pictograph is said to have originated in 2950 BC, when the transition from knotted cords to written signs supposedly occurred. The pictograph represents three pieces of jade, pierced and threaded with a string ; the dot was added to distinguish it from the pictograph for “ruler” 王(Goette, n.d.). To the Chinese, jade was traditionally defined by its “virtues,” namely a compact, fine texture, tremendous toughness and high hardness, smooth and glossy luster, along with high translucency and the ability to take a high polish (Wang, 1994). But they also ascribe mystical powers to the stone. Particularly popular is the belief that jade can predict the stages of one’s life: If a jade ornament appears more brilliant and transparent, it suggests that there is good fortune ahead; if it becomes dull, bad luck is inevitable。

Jade (Stone of Heaven by the Chinese) is priceless
Testifying to how much the Chinese are fond of jade is this time-honoured proverb: “Gold may have a price, but jade is priceless.” The value of gold can be determined by measuring its weight. Not jade. The value of a piece of jade is “assessed” by taking numerous factors into account. For example, the luster, purity and color, the sound it produces when struck, and when the jade piece was discovered or when and where a jade artefact was produced can affect a piece’s value.  

The beauty of jadeite and its cultural connotations
Since ancient times, men of moral integrity have been seen as processing the fine qualities of jade: tenderness, modesty, urbanity, among them. In the eyes of the Chinese, jade is not as shiny or sparkling as other precious stones such as diamonds, which some believe characterizes people who are aggressive or arrogant. Because of its physical qualities, jade, jadeite in particular, suits the artistic and intellectual tastes of the Chinese people,” said Ouyang Chiumei, a world-renown expert in jade. “The Chinese are reserved and mild. In their eyes, westerners are straight forward and aggressive, quite like the diamond.”

To understand Jade Culture - Two types of Jades
Jade is a name that was erroneously given to two separate and distinct gem materials-jadeite JADE and nephrite JADE - many centuries ago. In 1863, French mineralogist Alexis Damour analyzed bright green jades from then-Burma. When he found these samples to be different from what was called Chinese jade (usually amphibole jade, or nephrite), he named the mineral jadeite (the mineral with nominal formula NaAlSi2O6). (Damour, 1863).

Commercial grade of Jadeite is only found in Myanmar
Every year the Mynamar Gems Enterprise ( owned by the government of Myanmar ) holds the Myanmar Gems, Jade and Pearl Emporium where boulders of jadeite are sold by tender to the top jade dealers around the world and this is one of the most improtant event in the jade industry. It is said that 90% of the boulders are bought by the mainland Chinese nowadays.  And auctions of jade jewellery usually net top dollar in Hong Kong. We can safely say that it is an industry that basically thrives in the Far East.

Jade Culture 1 image Jade culture 2 image

Gambling on boulders
The dealers who bought jadeite do not really know what they were buying.They got to see no more than a small window cut into the boulder of jadeite to show a glimpse of the stone's interior.The dealers had no way of knowing whether the stone would be valueabe green jadeite or otherwise.They based on their instincts to guide them; they literally gambled hundreds of thousands of dollars on somthing that might worthless. That is why the trade is suitable for Chinese who view gambling as a favorate form of pastime.

Jadeite market is thriving
Jadeite, the most valued member of the jade family, became popular in China shortly after it was imported from Myanmar in the early Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). 
While some traditionalists feel that it lacks the rich history of nephrite, nevertheless the “emerald” green color of Imperial jadeite is the standard by which all jades – including nephrite – are judged by most Chinese enthusiasts today .In China , the jadeite market has become increasingly brisk along with the boom of the national economy. Prices for top-class jadeite articles have increased several times over the past year,

Jade Banglejade ring



Changing trend
Jadeite is becoming increasingly popular in western countries, at a time when more and more Chinese are taking a liking to diamonds. “Westerners are fascinated not only by the fine stone itself, but more importantly by the cultural messages it carries,”

Collect Jadeite Jade - why?
“Buy antiques in times of peace and prosperity, and gold in times of turmoil,” so the Chinese proverb goes.  Prices are likely to continue to rise. One of the reasons is the shortage of supply. Jadeite is produced only in Myanmar. Jadeite deposits were formed over millions of years, but these are being rapidly depleted due to excess mining. In the past, jadeite pieces were collected by simple digging near the rivers. Nowadays the precious stone is being mined from the mountains. As the precious stone is becoming rare, investing in jadeite could be a good idea for long term investors / collectors. 

Prerequisite to invest in jadeite
To be a good investor in jadeite, “First you have to invest in your knowledge of the precious stone. Only when you turn yourself into a jadeite expert can you start thinking about investing in jadeite. You have to understand what kind of items are worth investing in.  There are so many fake and substandard items on the market that lots of consumers have been cheated."

3 grades of Jadeite
Jadeite are classified into three grades, A, B and C (see below). Those of Grade A largely retain their natural features despite their processing, cutting, engraving. Products of Grade B products are bleached to get rid of impurities. Grade C products are often dyed and therefore of little value.


Type C jadeType C 2

Final Advice 
It is difficult for the layman to distinguish good jade from bad jade, not to mention other physical qualities of the stone. That’s why Ouyang suggests that for quality jade artefacts, buyers should rely on a dealer with a good reputation.

If jade is discarded and pearls destroyed, petty thieves will disappear, there being no valuables left to steal.

– From a dictionary published during the reign of Emperor K’ang Hsi (1662–1722 AD), as quoted by Gump, 1962

About Ouyang Chiumei: Ouyang Chiumei is one of the leading gemmologists, recognized the world over as an authority on jadeite jade. She achieved international renown in the mineralogical and gemological fraternities with her discovery and disclosure of “Ureyite” in the jade market in Hong Kong. She founded The Hong Kong Gems Laboratory and The H.K. institute of gemology in 1987, both of which have become recognized as leaders in the field of jadeite identification and education. She is also the first person to come up with the concept of “A, B and C” grade to classify jadeite products.

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