The new jade section at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show earlier this month signifies a growing demand for jade jewellery. Designers are incorporating jade into their contemporary pieces, mixing it with diamonds and other materials for a younger, fresher look.
Jade is a generic term for two different minerals - nephrite and jadeite. 'Nephrite has been used in Chinese works of art, including carvings and accessories such as belt hooks and hair ornaments since the Neolithic period,' says Pansy Ku of Christie's jewellery and watch department. 'The green stone used for jewellery is jadeite from Burma.'
In the past, mostly green jade was cut into cabochons, beads and hoops for jewellery. Jade dealer and jewellery designer Samuel Kung says popular designs for jadeite now range from floral and nature themes with diamonds and other coloured stones, to designs inspired by Oriental elements such as Chinese eternity knots and auspicious motifs.
'With its seven natural colours, jadeite is one of the most interesting and versatile gems, as its hardness and toughness allow almost any shape to form with incredible shininess,' he says. Besides green, jade also comes in lavender, yellow, red, black, glass (also called ice jade) and white.
Kung says modern designs featuring Oriental elements are popular among young customers. Jewellery designer Sandra d'Auriol suggests classic pieces such as jade bangles and saddle rings.
Vicki Chan, general manager of Continental Diamonds, picks out pendants and dangling earrings for younger wearers. 'Pendants are easy to match and the ones with modern designs can be fashion statements,' she says. Look for designs featuring geometric patterns mixed with other materials, such as a bangle designed by Kung that mixes lavender jade with wood and diamonds.
Younger buyers should also experiment with colour. 'A long necklace made of russet or black jadeite fits perfectly with the trend for long necklaces,' says Ku. 'For this coming autumn-winter, we're seeing lots of blacks with splashes of colour in fashion. The various colours of jade would bring out the colour in your winter outfits.'
The key is to choose a colour that complements your complexion and wardrobe. If you aren't sure which colour to choose, start with white or black jade, since they're easy to match and go well with this summer's monochrome looks. Black jade is versatile and Kung says it suits men. Qeelin's Tien Di collection features black and white jade pendants, rings and charms, while Edward Chiu uses black and white jade in his EC collection. For the more adventurous, Kung suggests colours such as lavender, yellow or red. 'Lavender jade is very popular among Europeans. Red jade suits those with a colourful personality and a bold fashion sense, while glassy jade is ideal for those looking for a more subdued look.'
Regardless of what colour you choose, look for jade with high clarity (or translucency) and good colour saturation, which means the colour should be vibrant, rich and even. Good quality jade should have no visible inclusions. 'It doesn't have to be very expensive - you can visit the jade market and buy something pretty for not much,' says d'Auriol.
If you do spend a considerable amount be sure to get a certificate. Jade is categorised into A, B and C grades: A is natural; B has been treated to remove blemishes and impurities; and C has been dyed.
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