Not your typical blog post, but I hope you find it useful
Everywhere in China you can find Jade. They sell it in street corners, in subway stations, in supermarkets, and in jewelry stores. Some Jade costs as little as 1 yuan and some as much as 100k+ yuan. Whether it’s black, blue, green, yellow or white, Jade is very shiny and alluring, though it’s often a mystery to foreigners and Chinese people alike. So how do you buy Jade without being cheated? I know it can be confusing so here is a brief introduction to “the king of Jade” that is Fěicuì.
A Chinese proverb says “huángjīn yǒu jià yù wújià” – one can put a price on gold, but jade is priceless. Even though there is no “Jade standard” like gold, Feicui still has its price. Just like when buying clothes, you have to look at the textures and colors to judge the value. We call Feicui’s color “se,” and when we talk about texture, we refer to the “water” in the Jade. These two things, color and water, directly determine the value of Feicui.
When we talk about the type of Feicui, we refer to the degrees of density (the compression in the stone) and transparency (the clarity). Jewelry made from Feicui must be both dense and clear, as well hard and regal in appearance. Good Jade is dense or highly compact; bad jade is brittle and fractures easily. Feicui’s “water” denotes its level of transparency, a lot of water means high transparency while little “water” means low transparency. In the industry, when we talk about the type of “water” or “shuǐ zhōng,” we refer to the composition of the mineral crystals in the jade that can have clarity similar to different states of water.
There is a Chinese saying, “nèiháng kàn zhōng, wàiháng kàn sè” – an insider looks at kind, an outsider just looks at color. When an expert appraises jade, the texture and transparency of the water are first and foremost. It is the texture of the Jade that determines its kind or type. The color then improves upon the value of the Feicui. So don’t get too distracted by the pretty colors, you’ll want to make sure it’s a good stone first.
Feicui is not just green. Various combinations of chromium and iron give Feicui an array of colors from a rich emerald color, to a mild yellow or a bright violet, to a cool blue-green or a pale white and many more possible colors.
Colors of Jade:
- Imperial “Yàn lǜ”: This is the highest grade Feicui. This a bright life-giving green, a luxurious verdant green. One shade darker and it would be too blue; one shade lighter and it would be too pale. The transparency and luster of the water are particularly important in Imperial jade.
- Dense green “Nóng lǜ”: This is a viridian, deep green with a synthesis of blue or yellow. The age of the Jade affects it’s densitiy or compression, dense green comes in three varieties: old, semi-old, and new. Its water kind either has a clear quality like ice or an opaque quality like glutinous rice.
- Vivid Green “Yáng lǜ”: This is a bright green with a hint of yellow. It has very good water or good translucency.Imperial, Dense green, and Vivid green are the top three types of Feicui, and they are all similar in value. It is very rare to come across one of these three types of Jade and almost impossible to obtain. If you come across any jade on the street that claims to be one of these three, its probably a fake.
- Mung Bean Green “dòu lǜ”： This green has a hint of blue with a trace of yellow that give it a bold blue-green color. Of all of the Feicui colors, this is the most common.
- Apple green “nèn lǜ”: This is a delicate color of green; it is the green of a young grass sprouts or a bright green apple. Although it does not have a noble or imperial quality (not something you would see an Emperor wearing), it has a gentle and cute quality to it (popular among young girls). It usually has a lot of water and gives the effect of extreme softness and delicacy in its structure.
- Blue-green “lán lǜ”： This jade has a strong blue color with very little yellow. To have this blue-green color, the stone must be very old (highly compressed). It also has a lot of water. The texture, or pattern of interlocking mineral crystals, of the jade is very delicate. Blue-green Feicui is known for its very high quality bracelets and pendants.
- Oily Green “yóu qīng”：This green is almost too green. It looks very deep or dark in color.
- Life Green “shēng lǜ”： This is the green of life, like an unripe peach or like the oxidation on old bronze. The green color in this jade swirls around black or white colors like lightly stirred paint. It has little water or low transparency, and its texture or inner structure is slightly coarse and splintery.
- Kingfisher “fěi”： We say that Cui is green and Fei is red thus, Fei or kingfisher jade usually has red and yellow colors. The most prized Kingfisher jade is a fiery red, and it is also very expensive.
- Violet “chūn”： This is a moderate, light, or brilliant violet or purple. Since it is very rare, its worth even more than the green varieties of Feicui.
- Dark-green “mò cuì”： This is such a dark green that it appears black, but when illuminated with a light, the green shines through. The value of this stone has started picking up over the last few years and it has steadily increased ever since.
- Mottled Color “zá sè”：This refers to a kind of jade that is a combination of colors, for example “Chun dai cai” (purple and green), “happiness, position and longevity” (Five colors in one stone: red, Green, purple, yellow, white). The more colors in Feicui the rarer it is, and the more colors the higher the price.
Color needs a good base to be displayed properly; the base of the water kind is divided into the following categories:
- Glass “bōli”: The texture is as bright and clear as glass. It also appears as hard like glass. If you take a piece of Glass type Feicui to the page of a book, you will be able to read the words underneath.
- Ice “bīng”： This jade is clear but with a fine mist inside, like that of a piece of ice. It does not have the clarity or brilliance of Glass jade. If you take a piece of Ice jade to the page of a book, you will be able to see words underneath but not clear enough to distinguish them.
- Glutinous rice “nuò huà”: This is transparent and yet opaque, it gives a feeling of dense sticky rice cakes or pulled fluffy cotton. This white stuff does not make up more than 20% of the stone composition.
- Moss-in-Snow “bái dì qīng”: This jade has green floating on a white surface like green clouds on a white sky, or like green moss strewn on powdery white snow.
- Cyanine “huā qīng”: This jade is blue-green，the base color appears green but it is not distributed evenly. The texture is slightly coarse, and some Cyanine jade are completely opaque while others are completely transparent.
- Lotus root starch “ǒu fěn”: This jade appears luminous but it is actually rather dark, it appears transparent but it is rather opaque. It looks like a cloudy murky mess of 80% lotus root powder frozen in 20% water.
- Rice water “mǐ tāng”: This kind has many impurities; it is essentially not transparent. It is similar to the white murky liquid leftover when you put too much water in your steamed rice or make rice porridge.
- White base “bái dǐ”: This kind is not transparent; it has a lot what looks like cotton inside. It is white with other colors and has very poor water.
- Dry base “gān dǐ”：This kind has no water and very coarse texture.
The color and water have a mutual relationship, if there is both good color and good water then the value is immensely greater than if just one is good. For example, Dense green, Imperial, and Vivid green Feicui are all expensive on their own, but they all go up in price by tens or hundreds of thousands when they are the Glass variety. Equally, if the jade has beautiful color but is composed of a coarse texture, or has a delicate texture but poor color, the value is very low. There is Feicui that is worth hundreds to millions, and there is Feicui with poor color and poor texture that is not even worth 100 rmb.
At the same time, limited availability of raw materials means that small pieces of Feicui are easier to come across, while larger stones are harder to obtain. When looking at two pieces of Jade with the same water and color, the size will greatly influence the price. Moreover; the set, cut, finish, region, etc. will also influence the value of the jade.
Is it real or fake – the ABC’s of Feicui:
Everyone now has some idea as to how to recognize and judge the value of Feicui. Let us put aside discussion of cheap vs. expensive jade and move on to the more frightening matter of fake Feicui. Actually, when one says the words “fake jade” he is classifying himself as an amateur. Jade does not differentiate real vs. fake; it classifies Jade as A, B, C or B+C grade.
A Grade: Unprocessed, unaltered 100% natural Feicui. Natural jade that has only been polished in wax and undergone a heat treatment is known as A grade.
B Grade: Has undergone a bleaching process to clean the inside of impurities and inferior color. However, this process destroys the inner structure of the Feicui, leaving holes where the impurities used to be. These holes are filled with a type of clear polymer and then lacquered. This corrects all of the problems and leaves a highly transparent finished product that is known as B grade.
C Grade: It takes an already cut stone and adds color by dip-dying the stone. Color altered Feicui is known as C Grade.
B+C: After the Feicui has undergone an acid and alkali cleaning, it is dried and then dyed. This is called B+C Grade.
B, C and B+C appear brighter, clearer and have a rich color like the highest quality Feicui, but it is no longer a legitimate natural stone, it does not have the ability to maintain or increase in value. If you spend hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands on a B, C or B + C grade you are simply wasting money because it is not even worth 100 yuan. In addition, B, C or B+C are not durable; after a short time the polymer and inner structure breakdown, the color fades, and it cracks and breaks easily.
Now let me tell you the many ways to distinguish A grade from B grade, C grade, and B+C grade.
B grade’s water quality is a little muddled or cloudy, it looks a little like gelatin. If you use a magnifying glass to examine the texture, you will see obvious continuous sheets of small threads left over from the acrid erosion. B grade feels light in your hand. If you hit a B grade bracelet, it will resonate with a dull sounding “thud.”
A grade Feicui has distinctly different and separate colors within the stone; even though there will be some gradual changes in color, the color changes would never appear sloppy or blurred. In C grade jade, the man altered color flows along the holes left by the removed Feicui impurities and leaves patterns of visible threads.
Another simple distinguishing method is to spend a few yuan to buy a currency detector. Shine the detector’s small ultraviolet light on the Feicui, if you see fluorescent glow, then it is defiantly B or C grade, A grade does not change under the ultraviolet light.
Of course, the safest method is to go to a nationally certified institution to appraise the jade and obtain a certificate of authenticity.
We say there are “thirty two (kinds of) water,” “seventy two (kinds of) bean,” “a hundred and eight (kinds of) blue” which means there are many varied different kinds of Feicui. With so many varieties of Jade, there’s no way for anyone to know everything there is to know about jade. As for me, I just understand a little, after the course of a few years of experience and study, I have come to learn a thing or two about Feicui. I hope this has helped everyone feel a little more confident about buying Jade.
(note: My husband sells jade. He originally wrote this introduction to Feicui and I just translated it into English. Sorry if some parts sound a little awkward, some things are really hard to translate)