For centuries, jadeite has played a strong symbolic role in Chinese culture. The gemstone is an enduring emblem of good luck and good health, and is presented as a gift at weddings and when a child is born. It is also extremely strong - fine grained jadeite is actually stronger than steel. Traditional jadeite jewellery is carved with images of Chinese gods and goddesses, dragons and even food. The gemstone comes in a variety of colours, but the most prized is Imperial green, a vibrant colour similar to emerald green. Imperial green jadeite sells for five to eight times as much as apple green jadeite, the next most popular colour. Lavender comes next, followed by red, yellow, white and black. Translucency, represented by an even distribution of colour and an absence of brown streaks, is essential to a stone's value. The finer the underlying grain, the greater the translucency or semi-transparency. A quiet revolution in jadeite jewellery has been taking place over the past few years. In place of the familiar bangles and Chinese carvings, jadeite is appearing in striking modern designs created for the young and fashionable consumer. At King Fook Jewellery, modern designs account for 60 per cent of the jadeite jewellery sold. 'The market has been changing over the past five years,' said Brenda So, product manager in the jewellery division. 'The younger set aren't buying old-style jadeite jewellery.' Jadeite's makeover at King Fook includes settings in 18-carat white gold and two-tone white and yellow gold with diamonds. Ms So said the company had stopped producing jewellery that combined jadeite with yellow gold, a combination she described as outdated. Edward Chiu, managing director at Edward Chiu International, is one of Hong Kong's best-known jadeite designers. His lavish floral brooches, for example, have been praised for their exceptional originality. Chiu is especially fond of lavender jadeite, but he also uses green, yellow, red, orange and brown. 'I find lavender very feminine and soft. It is beautiful against any skin tone,' he said. He was also the first designer to introduce black and white jadeite to Hong Kong, under his unisex EC Collection label. His designs are distinctly modern, but he also uses traditional Chinese motifs. 'My jewellery is for people who wear modern clothes, but it can be worn with a cheongsam, and it makes the cheongsam look modern,' he said. Nature figures prominently in his work, usually in the form of birds, butterflies and flowers. His creations are one-of-a-kind and meant to be noticed. Unlike many other precious stones, jadeite neither sparkles nor glitters, which is the secret of its appeal for many users. 'A diamond is easy to wear. It sparkles and makes a person look lively. But jade is different. It's more mysterious. It's very down-to-earth, very low-key. Also, it absorbs heat from your body,' Chiu said. He advised jewellery wearers to keep to a single colour scheme and not mix hues. 'You shouldn't have a green bracelet and white earrings, for example,' he said. Moderation is the secret when considering the number of jewellery pieces to wear. Common sense usually dictates two pieces, while the more daring may be able to handle three. Swiss designer Peter Baer, of Peter Baer, began working with jadeite 10 years ago. The gemstone accounts for more than 50 per cent of his jewellery business. 'I have come to like the material over the years,' said Baer, a Hong Kong resident for the past three decades. 'The gemstone offers lots of possibilities. You can shape jadeite any way you want. You look at the rough, uncut gemstone and let it inspire you.' Peter Baer's jewellery is known for its strong, clean lines. The east-west design influences include calligraphy, architecture and the art deco period of the 1920s and 1930s. He says he particularly enjoys working with pale green, icy white and black jadeite. Peter Baer jewellery is never shy or retiring. It is not unusual to find a one-square-inch slab of jadeite used in a ring, set in 18-carat white gold and bearing diamonds. Minimalism, however, is his preferred approach. One common mistake among wearers was mixing traditional and modern, said Baer. 'That's a bad idea. It's like wearing a frilly skirt with an Armani blouse,' the designer said. Ms So said 95 per cent of the customers looking for jadeite jewellery at King Fook were Chinese, They spent on average HK$20,000 for a piece of jadeite jewellery set with diamonds. Versatile jewellery, meanwhile, has become something of a trend. 'Some pieces can be worn in more than one way,' she said. 'A pendant can be detached from a necklace and worn as a brooch.' With demand shifting to more contemporary designs, the company is happy to take jadeite carved in traditional style and modify the mounting to give the piece a new look. Traditional jadeite jewellery still sells, but young customers are being drawn to contemporary designs and rediscovering a gemstone they once considered old-fashioned. 'Younger, more fashionable women are buying jadeite jewellery nowadays,' Ms So said, 'and some older women are even showing an appreciation of the new styles.' King Fook Splendor Ring: HK$96,700 An Imperial green jadeite cabochon encircled by diamonds in an 18-carat white gold cocktail ring from King Fook Jewellery. King Fook Elegance Earrings: HK$221,600 Imperial green jadeite and diamond earrings from King Fook Jewellery. Totally regal. Edward Chiu Ladybugs Set: HK$449,000 Eighteen-carat white gold brooch and earrings in lavender, white and black jadeite with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, from the Brooch Affairs Collection. Edward Chiu The Royal Duo Pair: Price on request A pair of 18-carat white gold bangles with carved Imperial green and smooth black and white jadeite, from the Deco Silhouette Collection. Peter Baer Modernism Price: HK$62,000 Icy white jadeite slab balanced against a square 18-carat white gold shank in a starkly beautiful ring from Peter Baer. Peter Baer Exotique Price: HK$68,000 Eighteen-carat white gold earrings from Peter Baer set with diamonds and icy white jadeite. An invocation of graceful calligraphic forms. Bulgari Luxury Price on application Eighteen-carat gold high-jewellery necklace with 11 rough-shaped Imperial green jadeite pieces, 11 pear-shaped pink sapphires and round and pave-cut diamonds. Sumptuous.