Is Chinese Jade Valuable?

Jade has long been revered as a precious gemstone prized for its beauty and durability

17/06/2024    

Discovered in the Neolithic Ages, which began in China around 10,000 B.C., jade has long been revered as a precious gemstone prized for its beauty and durability. Throughout history the mystical stone has played an important role in many civilisations such as the Maoris, Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs; it is however, in China that jade has had the greatest significance and features most prominently. Used in everything from ornamental carvings to ceremonial objects, the rarity, quality, and craftsmanship, as well as its cultural significance, are key determinants of its value.

 

Seven small items of carved Chinese jade

Sold for £8,800

 

The name jade goes back to the Spanish conquest of Central and South America, derived from the phrase “piedra de ijada” meaning “stone of the sides”. In 1863, French minerologist Alexis Damour determined that jade consisted of two separate, distinct minerals, namely nephrite and jadeite. Both metamorphic rocks and similar in appearance, their properties differ. The term jade is used to describe both varieties. Historically the jade, Chinese character Yu, mined and worked in China was only nephrite, until about 1750 when jadeite from Northern Myanmar, which was then under Chinese power, was also used.

During the early Chinese dynasties (c. 2070-256 BC), jade was reserved for royalty and nobility, ritual objects were crafted and used by Chinese emperors to communicate with supernatural forces leading the gem to become a symbol of power. Some believe it wards off evil and bad luck while fostering health and good fortune. Indeed, some historians believe that China went through a “Jade age” similar to the “Iron age” or “Bronze age” within other civilizations. The enduring love and obsession with jade remains most prominent with the Chinese, who have cherished this precious stone for many millennia and continue to do so today.

 

A large Chinese carved celadon jade Rhyton

Sold for £32,000

 

The present market is led by China’s economic growth, and demand for quality Chinese jade has been soaring alongside this expansion. Exceptional pieces with unique provenances can fetch tens of millions of pounds, while more common forms of the stone may still hold significant value. The demand for Chinese jade far outweighs the supply.

The specific colour of jade, together with its purpose and history, are the most significant factors influencing the value. Traditionally associated with the colour green, it may surprise some that jade can form in many other colours, such as lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown, white, black, and grey.

 

A Chinese carved celadon jade plaque on a wooden stand

Sold for £4,400

 

The finest variety of jadeite, an almost transparent vibrant emerald green, is the highly sought-after "imperial jade," which can fetch astronomical prices at auction. The royal court of China once had a standing order for all available material of this kind, and it’s one of the world’s most expensive gems. Other highly valued jade colours include “kingfisher jade”, “apple jade” and “moss-in-the-snow jade”. The most outstanding examples tend to be sold within the Asian market.

The value of Chinese jade lies not only in its physical and aesthetic properties but also in its deep-rooted cultural symbolism and the enduring appreciation for this timeless gemstone.

“You can put a price on gold, but jade is priceless” – Ancient Chinese Proverb.

 

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