Sunday, April 30, 2006

What I Bought on my Spring Vacation: Part Duh

Lately I've become obsessed with jade.

I know something about jewelry--I know about the 4 C's of diamond quality, and that Italian jewelers can't be bothered to make anything out of 14K gold, and that the first thing you look for in colored gem stones is the color--shade and saturation--and then you worry about the inclusions.

But for some reason, I got interested in jade, even though I knew nothing about it. And couldn't tell the expensive stuff from the cheap crap.

Actually, I think that's why I got interested. There is so much to learn. I mean, there's nothing we geeks like better than having to master an entirely new world of arcane knowledge with its own aesthetic. Like, say, the blogosphere. Or computers in general. Or jade.

Anyway, I'm in good company. Apparently the Chinese have been obsessed with jade for millennia (think Queen Elizabeth I and pearls, or Louis XIV and diamonds, only worse.) They started off using it for tools, because it can be honed to a sharp edge. It also lends itself to carving. It's called "the stone of heaven," and traditional Chinese lore attributes all kinds of mystical powers to it. (Not that I'm some chai tea drinking, incense-burning, crystal-wearing hippy. Harrumph! My interest is much more intellectual than that.) (Even though jade is supposed to be good for the kidneys. And come to think of it, I do drink too many cocktails, and my kidneys could probably use the help.)

I really had to read up on the stuff, because honestly, prices are all over the map. There's a bangle currently listed on eBay with a starting bid of $8,000:

And here's one with a starting bid of $1,900:

And this one has a buy-it-now price of $58:

Now, I ask you. Can you make sense out of these prices? Because I can't. So, is this a recipe for getting ripped off or what? Yay!

I decided that my first jade-purchasing experience should occur in the China pavilion at Epcot. I reasoned that the Walt Disney Corporation would probably not want to get into deep doodoo for selling jade that is dyed, or treated with polymers, or even vastly overpriced. I mean, a little overpriced, sure. This is Disney, after all. I'd be paying a premium for their expertise, but I wouldn't walk out of there with a piece of junk.

So while That Stud Muffin I Married was checking out the hand-rolled Jasmine Pearl tea, I checked out the options in the jewelry department. After much deliberation (as much as five whole minutes, people) I bought a jade cabochon ring set in yellow gold, with little tiny diamonds on either side. I believed the saleswoman when she told me it was very good jade ... I really did. But I felt better when a jewelry store owner in Boston's Chinatown told me it was excellent quality. I guess that time I didn't rip myself off. Because I spent $400 on that ring.

Since then I've purchased one more piece--a carved pendant on eBay. Just so you know, the purchase price was way less than $400. In fact, the purchase price was less than the shipping from Hong Kong. So you see, I'm not absolutely opposed to ripping myself off--and buying cheap crap--if that's what I did. And I think it is. Let's put it this way; I don't think I'll be wearing my pendant into any jewelry stores in Chinatown. Unless I'm also wearing a t-shirt that says, in Chinese characters: "Rip me off; I'm a stupid American."

So--want to see what I wasted my money on bought? I'm no jewelry photographer, and this is the best I can do:

You can't tell from the picture, but the pendant has a dragon carved in it.

p.s. If you're interested in jade, this website is the best source of information I've found on-line (scroll down to see amazing pictures of jewelry) this website has a lot of information as well as pieces for sale, and Gump's has no information, but a lot of jade for sale.


Shopaholic D said...

I'm a jewelry designer, but I can't tell good jade from bad jade...although I haven't worked with much jade.....but anywho, I usually just trust the vendors that what they sell me is the quality they say it is (they're not supposed to sell under false pretenses). Many stones, you can tell the basic quality by the attributes you mentioned in your post, but the jade does seem more difficult. Lovely jewelry you got though.

And I used to live in Orlando - I miss Disney - I'm a "theme-park-baby!"

:) Diana

Anonymous said...

they say myanmar jade is supposedly the best. Still, try not to spend too much on jade without the opinion of a jade expert, because there are a lot of fakes out there:)