Fifty shades of jade: Why Chinese buyers spend millions on this stone
Georgia McCafferty, CNN
5 minute read
2:21 AM EDT, Tue September 27, 2016
Jade is growing more popular in the West. Here actress Jessica Chastain attends the 2014 Hollywood premiere of "Interstellar" wearing a pair of finely carved jadeite earrings.
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Growing demand from China's increasingly wealthy consumers and lower supply from Myanmar have seen prices for jade skyrocket.
"It's really hard to find a good piece of jadeite nowadays because the supply is getting less," says Chiang Shiu-Fung, an associate vice president and jewelry specialist with Christie's Asia. "It can be very crazy prices."
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Myanmar supplies the vast majority of the world's jade, and all of the higher quality jadeite. However, most stone is mined in a remote and conflict-ridden corner of the country, and the industry lacks regulation. Although there are no formal figures on the supply of jade, major auctions houses say supply is dwindling.
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Jade is a broad term for a wide range of stones which, unlike diamonds and other gemstones, has no international standard for grading. Chiang says trained experts can be 80 to 90 percent sure whether a stone is jadeite or another kind of material. However, "if you really want to be 100 percent sure that a piece is jadeite, you have to send it to the laboratory," he says.
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The highest quality stone, called jadeite, is the hardest, most translucent and most valuable form of the stone. Lesser quality nephrite -- a softer, cloudier stone -- is more commonly used for carvings.
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Jadeite comes in a wide-range of colors that include traditional green, as well as l