Let the beauty of the stone shine through

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am

A PIECE OF high-quality, polished jade holds a beautiful shimmering light, whichever way you look at it. Diamonds are pretty, no one will dispute that, but jade has a special resonance and energy that shines from the stone.

As early as 3,000BC, jade was known in China as yu, or the royal gem. It was first used for weapons because of its strength, but later became valued for its beauty and used in high-quality jewellery and other fine objects.

Such is the workmanship of the jade cabochon ring (above), which jewellers have been polishing for a month at Kam Wing Cheong Jewellery in Jade Street, Jordan.

Yau Kim-wing is the third generation of jewellers in his family. He sources top-quality jade from Myanmar. While working mostly in green jade, his jewellers have also branched out into more modern, less expensive items to capture the younger market in Hong Kong and abroad.

'Our business was limited to wholesale and retail, but now we go to shows throughout Asia,' said Mr Yau.

'When you look at this ring,' he said, holding up the large cabochon that catches the light from all sides, 'you have to be an expert, first to cut the stone to extract the green, but then to smoothly polish the stone, so you can see it shine whichever way you look at it.'

Fellow jade jeweller Cecilia Li Ching-kei and her husband came from jeweller families and have been in the business for 30 years.

'Jade is different from other kinds of stones because it has so many colours,' said Ms Li, who runs United Jewelry with her husband in Jade Street.

'I like both traditional and modern jade designs, but I am keen to get young women interested in jade.

'For many years jade has had a false image in that it has appeared to be just for middle-aged women. When we make a new brooch, my creative team and I always watch out for the coming fashion. For example, Chanel mostly uses black and white. Hence we have incorporated that idea into some of our designs. So as well as the green jade, I use black and white jade around it.'

Non-green types of jade often cost less, and more young women could afford it, Ms Li said.

'We sell in Hong Kong and Asia, but are looking to expand our market to Europe.'

Ms Li is also looking to modernise the shapes of jade jewellery.

'Traditionally jewellers use cabochon, saddle or round shapes, but I also like using jade marquis for pendants. This appeals more to younger people.'

For Ms Li, jade is her life. 'I want young people to love it too,' she said.

Kam Wing Cheong Jewellery and United Jewelry will exhibit at the upcoming Hong Kong International Jewellery Show.