Luxury Explained: Why Jade Costs More than Gold

Carved jade.

Jade is synonymous with Chinese culture, ancient and modern. Jade has been attributed many fine virtues over the millennia. (Image: Bannerwega via Dreamstime)

Jade has been etched into Chinese royalty for centuries, and to this day, it is still revered as one of the most precious stones. Unlike gold, it has a more elegant history and was previously only used by kings and noblemen.

Today, it is more accessible to the masses, but it can cost significant money to accumulate. While it’s possible to save up to buy jade accessories or jewelry, it’s essential to understand why it is so expensive.

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If you’re planning to collect green stone, this article will help you understand why it’s so valuable.

It used to be passed from royalty to royalty, and now, it is accessible to almost everyone willing to pay the price. Let’s check out the history behind why the stone is more expensive.

Jade in Chinese history

It regularly shows up in Chinese history. For example, during the Han dynasty, the wealthiest Chinese nobleman would sometimes be buried in jade. Specifically, these noblemen would be buried in suits made of hundreds of small jade tiles all sewn together.

Gold was also found in these noblemen’s suits but mostly threaded together for details, not the main piece. Nevertheless, due to its rich history, jade has remained in demand by most traditional Chinese families.

Due to its history, it can be said that jade costs more than gold, especially in Chinese history.

jade
This precious stone holds importance aside from its outside appearance. (Image: Chatchai Somwat via Dreamstime)

Why is it so crucial in Chinese culture?

It holds importance aside from its outside appearance. It has been used as a symbol representing good health and long life. In Chinese culture, centuries of generations believed there to be a deep connection between long life, good health, and the green stone.

Today’s green stone is mainly used as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. While the appetite for fashion has grown past jade, more Chinese people are slowly collecting more of the stone as they get richer.

The richer some Chinese individuals become, the more of it they collect. Although this might not be true for everyone, it is valid for a good majority of Chinese people that follow tradition.

What is Jade?

To put it simply, it is a precious stone. Specifically, it is a title used to describe two chemically different substances with the same physique.

It is a term used to describe jadeite, coming exclusively from Burma, and nephrite, which comes from western China. Of the two, jadeite is usually more expensive due to its different properties.

Instances of jade being sold at high prices

There have been many auctions wherein jade was sold at extremely high prices, including one in Hong Kong at the Bonhams auction house.

A historical collection was sold at the auction for an astonishing US$23 million. These items date to the Neolithic period. Unfortunately, this historical jade jewelry made it to a very narrow sector of the collectors market and, although already a collection, still fetched this incredible amount.

Another instance where it stood out was in Hong Kong’s Sotheby, where Cartier’s art deco jadeite brooch sold for a whopping US$930,000.

Traditional Chinese jade bracelets on stands.
The hard part of buying any precious stone is knowing its value. (Image: Weir 2010 via Dreamstime)

What to look for when buying

The hard part of buying any precious stone is knowing its value. While some stones might look glamorous on the outside, it usually takes more work for regular buyers to distinguish between a good-quality stone and one worth less.

When trying to pick out a good jade, color is usually one thing that buyers look for first. It, however, comes in many hues and colors. The color can even range from blue to lavender. 

Four metrics to look at when buying:

  • Color: The more vibrant the color is, the more pricey it can be.
  • Texture: The finer the grain and the less marbling, the more expensive it can be.
  • Craftsmanship: Just like gold, how it is used and shaped also affects the price.
  • Translucency: The more translucent a jade piece is, the more desirable it is.

Kent Wong, a managing director of Chow Tai Fook, a Hong Kong luxury jeweler, said that a jade bangle is usually a good investment. This is because, to create the bangle, the jeweler must use high-quality materials.

When such bangles are made of poor-quality stones, they usually break. So another metric to measure the price is its history and significance.

However, pricing a jade artifact or accessory based on its history can take time and effort. Therefore, we recommend approaching someone knowledgeable before making a purchase based on an artifact’s history.

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