There are many reasons to collect jade. The Chinese collected jade for social reasons and at times, almost
religious reasons. Today, people collect antique jade for it's historical or cultural value. They also collect
modern jade as jewelry. This page describes these reasons in detail.
This section includes:
Why the Chinese Collected Jade
Why Collect Archaic Jade?
Why Collect Modern Jade?
Why the Chinese Collected Jade
Beginning in Ancient Times
1. Worship of Nature: sun, moon, heaven, earth, clouds, wind, rain, mountains, etc. AND the spirits or gods
associated with them.
2. In shamanistic ceremonies surrounding birth, death, marriage, achieving power, bearing children, curing
sickness, preparing for war, etc.
3. As trade or barter money, jades were more important than silver, gold, or other barter money. Often whole
cities were purchased for a single carved jade object.
4. As gifts and tribute important powers: payment of annual taxes; to cement alliances between city-states; for
the buying or use of armies in defense, and even to ransom a captured king or prince.
5. In annual ceremonies by kings and emperor to ensure good crops, successful hunting, and freedom from
famine, drought, plagues, floods, etc.
6. Honoring ones' ancestors on certain auspicious days of the year.
7. As symbols of rank and privilege - only the nobility were allowed exclusive use of jade. For aesthetic
decoration in various jewelry-type combinations.
8. As Ming qi - an honorarium for the deceased, given to the bereaved family by friends, relatives, or
government officials. Placed in the tomb with the ceremonies.
9. An amulet of protection from harm - especially favored by military officers (most of whom were taken from
Functions of jade added during the past 1000 years
1. An amulet - often given at birth - that wished good luck, happiness and long life.
2. An amulet given to students with a wish that they would be successful in business or receive a good
government official appointment upon getting a high score on their exams.
3. A reward amulet for long service upon retirement; or given to a friend or relative when they reached the age
of 60 or above, wishing them a peaceful and harmonious retirement/old age.
4. Lucky amulet for the newly married, wishing them happiness and a fruitful, child-filled life.
Building a Collection of Antique Jades Today
Everyone can afford to buy a few jades that bring a new interest into their lives: jades are a touchstone to
ancient Asian history as well as examples of the ultimate in careful craftsmanship. But beginning a serious
study and collection of Chinese jades requires a small commitment of time and attention that is not suited to
everyone. That is why the number of true collectors is small.
Antique Chinese jades are so varied there is something that will please any collector. There are a myriad of
animal and plant subjects, Buddhist and Taoist religious jades, jades used in official ceremonies (often
attended by the emperors), jades used as money, jades whose primary function was protection and the
bringing of good luck, and jades made exclusively as parts of elaborate jewelry constructions. During the
Song, jades became important as scholars' accessories, and in the Ming larger jades were commissioned
for wall and furniture-top decorations. Finally, many jades were made expressly for burial with an important
person, these Mingqi being placed in the tomb during the grave ceremony (usually conducted by the local
The following is a suggested plan for starting a meaningful collection of old Chinese jade. Only you can
decide how far you will take it, at what depths you will travel.
STEP 1: Acquire a few jades that interest you, and study them: marvel at how they were crafted; read about
their symbolism; visit a museum that exhibits Chinese jades and bring them along to show to a curator; and
think about a plan for your collection.
STEP 2: Write down a list of subjects or "types" you would like to acquire in jade.
For example, are you seeking to build your collection around a theme (such as dragons, flowers, or military
jades), around finding one or two from each period of history, or limiting the collection to "auspicious" jades
used in the many ceremonies of Taoism and Confucianism?
STEP 3: Share this information with one or more mentors to get their reactions and advice.
STEP 4: Choose a dealer (or dealers) to help you in your quest. Give them the guidelines of price and quality
that will help define what they should offer you. Study what they offer you with an eye towards learning
everything you can about them.
STEP 5: Keep the channels of communication open with your mentor(s) and dealer(s) so that you will be
made aware of new developments in the field, and get first chance to acquire pieces that cross their paths.
Refine your quest from time to time. And don't hesitate to ask dealers to trade back items previously
purchased that no longer fit your goals. A good dealer will give full credit.
Collecting Modern Chinese Jadeite
As mentioned above, Jadeite is the green jade (also comes white, yellow, brown, reddish-brown, blueish
(rare) and lavender-colored) that is mined in Burma (Myanmar). It is carved in many locations around Asia, and
the best quality to be found is priced higher than the finest diamonds. Only the best shops in Hong Kong,
Singapore, Taiwan or Japan will carry it, and this "finest" is not imported into the West.
As an illustration, a bead strand of top green jadeite auctioned about 1999 for over 9 million US dollars! It is a
jewelry stone with no equal, as it takes intricate carving with little fracture. Only the most extreme beating in
use will dull its lustre, and it can be re-polished time and again if necessary.
OTHER MODERN JADES
A NEW DISCOVERY of very hard green nephrite has been made on top of a mountain in British Columbia.
Accessible only by helicopter, its location is a secret. This rare material has been marketed as POLAR JADE
to the jewelry trade, and the vein is reputedly exhausted. Its green tone is slightly more subdued than the finest
Jadeite, but it is a beautiful green and a most durable gemstone. I recommend it for the making of rings and
suites of jewelry for these reasons.
THE GREEN TAIWANESE JADE, which comes in a yellow-green or avocado shade, is less hard than the other
forms of Nephrite, and is actually a "cousin" of true nephrite. Found in jewelry stores and made into many
forms, it has been mined in such quantity that carvings up to 5 feet across are known. Jewelry from Taiwanese
Jade is inexpensive and not always put in solid gold mountings. Sometimes known as "costume jade", it is a
natural gem, and of true color.
OTHER IMITATIONS of modern green jadeite are usually glass, or colored white jadeite (dyed). The latter is
known as "B-JADE" in the trade, while "A-JADE" refers to true, natural-color Burmese Jadeite. The color of
B-JADE will fade over time (due mostly to exposure to outdoor light and fluorescence (the ultraviolet part of
these lights)). B-JADE is good looking and not expensive, while A-JADE value is completely dependant upon