Jade has always been one of the most popular gemstones we bring to you on Gemporia and one of the most difficult for us to source, as is often the way. At the end of 2020, a little bit of serendipity allowed us to bring some of the finest quality Jade to your screens, and there was just enough left in the vault to create a small number of pieces for 2021 and beyond. Before we dive into why this Jade is so unique, though, here’s a little history about the stone of heaven.
Jade is a gemstone steeped in myths and legends, many of which helped lend the gem its sobriquet ‘the stone of heaven’. One myth states that the thunder that encompassed the gods’ power would strike the ground, creating Jade on contact with the surface. Another legend speaks of Jade being captured moonlight in solid form. The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BCE - 479 BCE) wrote that the brightness of Jade represented heaven and thought of Jade as effervescing 11 virtues, including truth, loyalty and intelligence. When polished into a flat disk with a hole in the middle, Jade is also said to represent heaven.
The word ‘Jade’ itself is thought to have come from the Spanish phrase ‘piedra de ijada’ or ‘flank stone’, as it was once believed to ease pain in the abdomen. When used without a prefix, Jade refers to the classic green variety of the gemstone, and it is also used as the name of a colour in its own right, which sits somewhere between Emerald green and viridian. It measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale and can be shaped and carved into the most intricate and beautiful designs with relative ease. It is, however, generally regarded as the toughest gemstone, especially in its Jadeite form. In gemstones, hardness and toughness refer to different qualities. Hardness is a measure of resilience to scratching, while toughness is resistance to breaking. In toughness terms, Jade is tougher than Diamond. Some of the earliest tools created by humankind were made of Jade for these very reasons.
Despite its long and storied history, it took until the 19th century, around 1863, for a French chemist to discover that what people referred to as Jade was, in fact, two different gemstones. The first has since become known as Nephrite and the second as Jadeite. In China, where the gem is one of the most revered jewels in the culture, Jade has a broader concept. Other stones such as Quartzite and Dolomite are also commonly brought under the Jade name.
Jadeite is usually opaque to translucent and often has a luscious glass-like quality. It is found in several colour variations, including delicate pastel blue, lavender, white, yellow, black, orange and pink. The most sought after colour, though, remains a bewitching apple green. This colour is also known as Imperial Jade. The reason it features this enchanting colour, as with many other green gems, is chromium’s presence. As it has currently only been discovered in a few places worldwide and always very sporadically, mystical and magical Jadeite is the rarer of the two varieties. The most significant source of quality Jadeite is Myanmar (Burma), though it can also be sourced in Russia, Japan and the USA.
Nephrite’s colours range from green to creamy white to grey. The green of Nephrite is spinach to sage green and is darker than Jadeite. It has a pearly to greasy lustre. During Neolithic times (towards the end of the Stone Age), the primary source of Nephrite Jade was China, where it was often used for ceremonial purposes. As far back as 500 AD, it is said that Chinese doctors would prescribe finely ground Jade to be mixed into fruit juices to aid the relief of various ailments, such as asthma, heartburn and even diabetes. The drink was said to be a powerful tonic that also soothed and calmed. Doctors believed the finely powdered Jade would pass through the digestive system, and the body would absorb all the benefits of the gemstone. Jade carvings were also created by the Chinese and are famous worldwide. Wearing Jade in bangles and bracelets has historically been said to protect you from sickness. In China, delicately carved bracelets are very popular and very expensive for this reason.
The cultural significance and obsession with Jade in China make it such a hard gemstone to source. Jade, in particular Jadeite, is not currently in short supply in terms of the quantity coming out of the mines, particularly in Myanmar (Burma). But the quality is so good that China and other East Asian countries buy up all of the rough at very high prices. It is simply too expensive for others to get a look in, including us here at Gemporia. We have always dreamed of people able to bring Type A Jadeite to your screens, the finest quality available anywhere in the world. Late in 2020, the dream came true. Only through long-nurtured relationships with our gem sourcing partners and friends were we able to pounce on the opportunity to finally bring Type A Burmese Jadeite to Gemporia designs for the first time. Here's the story of how it happened.
In late 2019, Gemporia’s David Troth, Jake Thompson and Steve Bennett were granted access to the Mogok region of Myanmar (Burma). We knew this was a big deal immediately as it’s almost impossible to do. We believe ‘outsiders’ have only been permitted into the region a handful of times in the last hundred years. We were incredibly privileged to cross into the region, especially with our TV cameras. Within the Mogok region, the northern mountainous province of Kachin is the source of Burmese Jade. Its highest mountain, Hkakabo Razi, rises almost 6,000 metres above sea level, forming the southern tip of the Himalayas. The region is home to a world-class source of gem-quality Jadeite, and is mined in alluvial deposits of the Uyu River in the township of Hpakant. The area is right on the border with China.
Getting to the Jade mines was time-consuming, but this unique opportunity could not be turned down. The mines were not big open-pit mines, which can only operate outside monsoon season, but were smaller scale shaft mines, where some of the finest grades are unearthed. The Jadeite here comes in various shades of green (and very rarely with a splash of purple), and prices can vary from a few dollars a carat to millions. Sometimes huge boulders of Jadeite can be found, and these can be sold into the east (while still whole) for tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars. This relationship between Myanmar and China has been in place in one form or another for at least 2,000 years. For Jade of this quality, the primary factor that drives its value is its shade and, to a lesser extent, its internal structure. To test the unseen construction of a precious piece of Jade, you will often see experts tapping two pieces together and listening to how they resonate!
Our contact for this fine quality Jadeite is the highly respected Chinese Jade buyer Bernard Liu. Bernard scours the Mogok markets for only the finest quality pieces to purchase, a skill that has seen him become one of the most prominent Jadeite buyers in the world. Incredibly, if we fast forward to the middle of last year, the reason that Bernard was able to find a small window of opportunity to sell some of this Type A Burmese Jadeite to jewellers in the west was the Chinese Covid-19 lockdown and its effect on the supply chain of the jewel. Bernard was able to source us a one-time-only, legacy parcel of Jadeite, and it is these pieces that we are now rapidly running out of in our vaults. Bernard has told us many times, “Imperial Green Type A Jadeite is the most expensive gemstone in Asia”. We feel incredibly fortunate to have even seen this gemstone, let alone secure some for Gemporia designs.
Our gemstone expert David Troth has called this the very best 100% natural Imperial Green Type A Jadeite. Now is the time to own one of these masterpieces, as we don’t foresee another time in the future when circumstances will allow us to get hold of it. There are precious few chances left to get hold of the finest Jade we have ever been able to source. We’re delighted to be able to offer these pieces to you - it has been a collective dream of the team since we first launched onto your screens in 2004.
EXPLORE OUR TYPE A BURMESE JADEITE DESIGNS HERE