It's time to cast off your jaded beliefs about jadeite. Formerly known as an "old lady" stone and worn as a simple bangle to ward off evil spirits, jadeite is now adorning the ears, necks and wrists of the young and fabulous.

Believed to bring in money and love, jadeite has mesmerised the masses and, in particular, the Chinese, since ancient times. Local jewellery designer Wallace Chan says that for the younger generation, "green [jadeite] pieces can sometimes be seen as passé".

But the stone is slowly shedding this image and, like pearls, is going through somewhat of a resurgence. Pearls have made a comeback thanks to Hollywood blockbusters such as The Great Gatsby. With jadeite, the progression into the limelight has been more gradual. Interest from the West is part of the reason for increased awareness of jadeite.

Humble is perhaps the best word to describe the gemstone. "Its colours and sheen have a subtlety that's unlike diamonds, which are brighter and more resplendent," Chan says.

Chan describes the gem as having a "kind of politeness, a mannerism" which resonates with those looking for something subtly luxurious.

Ellen Sin, director of jewellery and jadeite at Bonhams Hong Kong, agrees: "Jadeite has an understated beauty. It is elegant and classy but not flashy at all."

There has been greater interest in subtle luxury, both in fashion and in watches, and the trend is catching on with jadeite.

"Many of our clients are very experienced buyers," says Philip Lai, jewellery art and style consultant for Edward Chiu Jewellery Art. "They have their share of expensive and big brand jewellery. They have their diamonds, emeralds and rubies. What they are looking for now are more subtle pieces [that can represent their personality]. They want to find that tailor-made and exclusive piece."

The younger generation across the globe is also becoming more interested in jadeite pieces. Young A-listers and style icons such as Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Karlie Kloss have been spotted on red carpets wearing modern jadeite jewellery.

Tapping into this interest, jewellery designers are turning to more avant-garde designs and defying traditions to attract a younger, more fashionable clientele. For example, the gemstone has been crafted into on-trend pieces such as ear-cuffs and intricate hair ornaments.

Edward Chiu Jewellery Art is one such pioneer in this regard. "Mixing and matching different jadeite with each other and also with other stones is very important," Lai says.

And it all starts from the fundamentals. "The design has to be contemporary. The focus should not be purely on the nature of the stone," adds Eddy Hui, the nephew of founder Edward Chiu and director of the brand.

The key is to make fashionable pieces which people would want to wear every day without compromising the beauty of the gem. Transformable pieces - which can be worn in multiple ways - is one way to achieve this. A jadeite pendant that can be transformed from earrings to a necklace makes the piece more wearable and more fun, Lai says.

Another way to modernise jadeite is to incorporate more colour. "A lot of people think jadeite only comes in green," Bonhams' Sin says. "But in the past five to 10 years, coloured jadeites have been gaining popularity."

Lavender, red, yellow, black and white are common alternative colours. At the Edward Chiu store in IFC Mall, the Lady Lavender collection - featuring lavender jadeite carved into intricate petals, accented by black jadeite, ruby and diamonds - is one stunning example. Apart from cool and chic designs, coloured jadeite can also offer a more accessible -though by no means cheap - price point. The price of green jadeite is highest, followed by lavender, yellow, black and white jadeite.

This move to incorporate coloured jadeite is not limited to boutique brands. Big names such as Cartier and Dior have unveiled pieces featuring edgier use of jadeite.

At this year's Baselworld, Dior launched the La Mini D de Dior with a lavender jadeite dial paired with diamonds and a black satin strap. Earlier this summer, Cartier included a pink gold ring featuring a stunning black jadeite adorned with diamonds in its Paris Nouvelle Vague collection.

Such mixing and matching of contrasting materials is giving jadeite designs an extra edge. In his typical innovative style, Wallace Chan took this trend to new heights when he unveiled his "A Heritage in Bloom" necklace. Bringing together more than 100 pieces of green jadeite and mutton fat white jadeite with thousands of white diamonds and hundreds of pink diamonds, the resulting piece is extraordinary, with the diamonds set inside the jadeite.

This avant-garde take on using jadeite in jewellery designs is exciting for the market. As more jewellers use jadeite in unconventional ways and "improve techniques on polishing and cutting jadeite", Chan is optimistic that consumers will get more modern choices for the humble, traditional gem, which still holds a special place in many people's hearts.

 

WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT

While designers are opting for more fashion-forward and edgy creations in the auction world, it seems that traditional pieces - in terms of colour and design - are still the star attraction.

The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace (below), a Cartier-designed jadeite bead necklace featuring 27 translucent, colour-matched bright green imperial jadeite beads, varying from 15.4mm to 19.2mm, is a perfect example. The heritage piece fetched a record-breaking HK$27.44 million at the Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels auction in Hong Kong in 2014. The necklace was part of renowned jewellery collector Barbara Hutton's personal collection. Romantically, the stunning piece has rejoined its original family as it was acquired by the Cartier Collection at the auction.

There are several reasons the necklace exceeded estimates at the auction.

Jade has always been popular at auctions, says Ellen Sin, director of jewellery and jadeite at Bonhams Hong Kong. Its heritage and cultural significance for Chinese clients is a particularly strong reason for interest in the gem.

Of the different variations, "green jadeites are still the best to invest in because of tradition", Sin says. Following that, lavender jadeite and red jadeite often fare best at auctions.

How well a type of jade fares is a matter of supply and demand. Traditions and depleting sources have led to a price surge in green jadeite. Sin estimates the price for jadeites have increased by three to five times in the past decade.

Like diamonds, that have the 4C's to determine the stone's quality, jadeite also has certain criteria which determines the gem's quality. The measuring system is less regulated than those for diamonds. In general, besides the colour, one should keep an eye out on translucency and clarity.

Within each colour of jadeite, there are also different hues. The particular shade of the jadeite is affected by its translucency and clarity.

Translucency determines the transparency of the jadeite. Semi-transparent jadeites are the most valuable as the gems have an alluring brilliance and glow. Jades of higher quality generally do not have cloudy patches which break up the transparency of the gem.

While lavender jadeite is the second most valuable, there are certain difficulties when it comes to investing: "It is hard to find good colour and translucency," Sin says. "It is incredibly valuable once you find one [which fulfils both categories]."

However, those looking to invest should not be deterred. Sin says, "As a long-term investment, jadeite is always a good choice." Like most things in life, it's simply about finding the right match.

Additional Reporting by Stephanie Ip