Buying Jade in China

The history of Jade culture in China is almost as long as the history of China itself!  Since its discovery, Jade has been given high material and symbolic meaning.  For example, Jade has symbolized wealth, power, and prestige.  Only those ‘worthy’ such as the Emperor and Empress, could afford to wear Jade.  Nowadays, Jade is still highly sought after.  However, Jade is used more for health and meditation purposes than for displaying wealth and power.  Unfortunately, finding pure, authentic Jade is hard to come by.

Ever since my mom knew that I would be studying in China for a semester, one of the things she wanted me to bring back was a Jade ornament which she could use for her meditation and healing practices at home.  So, since setting foot in Chinese soil, I have looked for the perfect piece of Jade to buy for her.  Although I have found many merchants that sell jade, I have yet to buy one in fear of it being a counterfeit.  Because of the advancement of technology, people have been able to produce replica copies of Jade.  But as the term suggests, these jade pieces are replicas and thus are probably not the original, authentic piece.  So what am I to do?

When it comes to Jade, no one knows more than our professor, Professor Shao.  When he was growing up, Professor Shao remembers there being an abundance of Jade material, so buying Jade back then was more inexpensive.  However, nowadays, Jadeite is rare to find, so the prices have increased tenfold and the supply of real, authentic Jade has greatly diminished.  Nonetheless, Shao advises that I take care when buying Jade in fear of me being gypped by a vendor.  In fact, Professor Shao taught me four cool tricks to help me distinguish real jade from the fake:

“First, real Jade is known for deceiving people about its weight.  Real Jade is known for being very dense and heavier than expected.  Second, Jade produces a deep, resonant sound when scratched against another similar object.  If the sound produced sounds like plastic beads scratching together then it is probably fake.  Third, Jade should feel cold, smooth, and soap-like.  It should take a while to heat up to your touch.  Fourth, and lastly, Jadeite is very hard and can scratch glass and metal.”

Nonetheless, even knowing these steps does not make me any more certain of whether or not I am purchasing real Jade.  People can be very cleaver when they reproduce fake copies of items, so they probably have found ways to deceive these tests.  However, I will continue to search for an authentic piece of Jade until my last day in Shanghai.  Perhaps one of my Chinese friends has more experience with buying Jade and could lend me hand?  Time to put some of that guanxi to good use! 😀