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Jade: The Imperial Stone

Jade is the quintessential stone of China, but buyer beware ... there's more to purchasing jade than finding an eye-catching piece.

 

To the Chinese, jade is considered the most valuable of all precious stones in China. Ranging in color from the pale green of white jade to the emerald-hued imperial jade, the stone is worn to promote good luck and better health. Be warned, though, the jade industry has many pitfalls ranging from low quality stones to outright fakes.

After scouring tour books, speaking with several reputable jade sellers, and even researching jade’s long history and becoming a bit of an amateur minerologist, these are some tips I learned that will help to ensure your piece will last through the generations.

Look

True jade should feel soft compared to other stones and have an almost oily sheen. It should be smooth, with no pits or indentations. When held up to the light, the piece should be mostly translucent, but contain patches of opaque areas creating a distinct cloud-like appearance.

Color

Jade can range in color from pale white to green to purple, depending on where the stone originated. While the white or “cabbage” jade is highly prized among the Chinese, the dark green of imperial jade is the most popular with western cultures. Unusual colors should be viewed with skepticism. Also note that jade’s cost is based on its color rather than on its weight. The richer the green the more expensive the piece will be.

Sound

Yes, sound. The best way to test the authenticity of a piece of jade is to listen to it. Using either another piece of jade or a harder stone such as agate, tap the jade. If it’s true jade, it will resonate or “sing” similarly to the way crystal does. If it produces a dull or thunking noise, it’s most likely a stone such as quartz that has been dyed to look like jade.

Cost

High quality jade should not come at a bargain price. Street sellers who offer pieces at low prices should be avoided, as the stones are most likely made of low quality jade or they aren't jade at all. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

As an example you will commonly see “jade” bangles being sold by street sellers for as little as 80 RMB/$11.75 USD. Contrast that with the 3,000 RMB/$440 USD for my own jade bangle (certified by the Chinese government to be jade), and you’ll understand why the cost can be a tip off. 

Certification

For the ultimate in security, buy your piece from a reputable seller who offers a government-issued certificate of authenticity. Certificates should have a photo of your piece, be numbered, and contain the seal of the Chinese government. This will ensure that your piece is true jade and will be a treasured piece for years to come.

As odd as it may sound I actually bought my piece from the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing hotel where I was staying in Beijing. The sales associate was courteous, did not push me into a sale, let me view many bangles, and only sold government certified jade. She even held the piece for me while I went back to my room to mull the purchase over. In the end I bought from her because I felt I could trust her as a seller and being able to trust who you’re buying from is important no matter where you are. 


Destinations: China

Themes: Shopping

Activities: Shopping


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