Thursday, 29 November 2012

The value of jade

In April 2012 this green jadeite 'Laughing Buddha and Diamond Pendant Necklace” was sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for HKD15, 220,000.00 (GBP1, 217,600.00).

Laughing Buddha, surmounted by a round brilliant cut diamond weighing approx. 1.30 carats, mounted in 18ct white gold, accompanied by a link chain, length 440mm. Buddha approx.35.57 x 37.76 x 6.45mm (Sotheby’s)

When I showed the picture of this remarkable green jadeite piece to my husband (a lovely Italian man, but doesn’t know much about jewellery), he said:
"Why would someone pay so much money for it? The diamond is not that big and the item is not even signed by Cartier or Bulgari!"
Appreciating jade does not only mean understanding jade grades and quality, but also the cultural and social value that jade has for the Chinese. In the West, diamond, sapphire, ruby and a number of crystalline gems are much more popular than jade, jade is normally regarded as a ‘semi-precious’ stone…… but the Chinese have a high regard for jade!    
An ancient Chinese proverb says: “You can put a price on gold, but jade is priceless”[1]. Take for example the word for jade; in Chinese it is written as , almost the same as the word for king . The only difference is the small dot at the lower right; it represents the jewel the king is wearing. The meaning of jade carries ‘purity’, ‘whiteness’, ‘grace’, ‘manor’, ‘gentle’’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘love’.  Chinese says: ‘Jun Zi Ru Yu’ meaning, a real gentleman. is like jade. Also when Chinese describe a beautiful lady, they say ‘ting ting yu li’ meaning the grace of a lady is the same as jade

Chinese believe that 'jade keeps you from evil and disasters'. They normally give a jade amulet to a new born baby to bring him/her good luck. This is part of jade's deep attraction to the Chinese, aside from its intrinsic beauty it is also a symbol of protection, it is like a magic stone. 

“Well, if it is like this, why do people sell it?” 

You are right, this is an interesting question. The collectors and some jade owners treat their jade as their life. The majority of pieces sold at auction probably come from dealers. Very rarely a collector will put his pieces for sale. When jade items from a collection are for sale, it is usually because the owner has died and the heirs sell them to get the money. 

"Why do we call it 'jade' and not with a word translated from Chinese?"

I guess it is because, in the West, the word ‘jade’[2] is said to derive from the Spanish ‘piedra de ijada’ meaning ‘colic stone’ which is the name that Spanish Conquistadors gave to the stone that the Indians believed had power relieving the pain caused by kidney ailments”. 

“It is interesting to note this similarity on jade magic powers by two civilizations so far apart. “So how do you judge a good quality jade? By its magical powers? ’’

“Yes, it is just like magic!’’ I joked, "but I will tell you about it another time….. "

[1] ."(Fred Ward, National Geographic, September 1987; Timothy Green, Smithsonian magazine, 1984)

[2] The name was first seen in print in 1569, when it was used by a Dr Monardes of Seville, Spain. In 1598 the term "ijada" appeared in English. In 1777 "jadde" appeared in English. In 1811 John Pinkerton, who coined the word gemology, wrote of "jad, the giada of the Italians". Early writers used Latin, and in Latin "piedra de ijada" was "lapis nephriticus", from the Greek "nephros" meaning "kidney". A. G. Werner of Freiburg, Germany, was the first (1789) to use the word nephrite in English. In 1863 Professor A. Damour, recognizing the difference between the two jades, coined the word jadeite.  (

Thursday, 22 November 2012