Masterful Jade Artistry: The History of Chinese Jade Carving Techniques
Because jade is one of the hardest gemstones, especially nephrite jade, carved jade is the result of various techniques being used to bypass its sturdiness. Nephrite jade and jadeite jade are strong due to their very dense crystalline structure, which can be read more about here.
One method used to quarry jade was to heat it up with fire then splash the jade with cold water. The sudden change in temperature would cause a reaction which would make the jade crack. However, such a method would also destroy the jade, hence making finding high quality jade along rivers the best method of extraction.
Wasters, which were Neolithic jade workshops, hold evidence of evolving jade carving techniques from chipping jade to using precise tools. Due to the high toughness of jade, abrasion with a tougher material has always been a method of choice to mold the jade pieces. At first, quartz was used to create jade designs but later on during the Song Dynasty, “red sand” became much more popular. Other abrasives that were developed to carve jade include almandine garnet, corundum, carborundum, and diamond.
In the Hongshang region, string, awl, hollow drill, and a slow rotating disk were tools used to cut and carve jade pieces. String was used to slice, shape, and cut slits into jade. Awls and hollow drills punctured small and big holes into the jade respectively, depending how large the jade piece was and the purpose of the jade design. The slow rotating disk was used for line cutting and to prepare drilling the jade. Metal tools were introduced during the late Zhou Period, making it plausible that copper tools were used before the use of iron.
Eventually after the 1960s, carving jade became much more efficient thanks to the availability of more powerful jade cutting tools and stronger abrasives. Now, the three main jade processes for modern works for jadeite and nephrite are manual carvings, reliance on Computer Numerical Control (CNC), and 3D Scanning / Auto Carving.
The manual process can be summarized in four steps which are, examination of the material, designing, carving, and polishing. The image of the bodhisattva buddha jade above displays this carving process. The goal is to waste as little jade as possible due to how difficult it is to work with in the first place because of its hardness. Leftover, smaller jade are potentially used for other things such as beads for jade jewelry. The design of each jade piece is usually influenced by the color and transparency.
The CNC engraving machine has become one of the most popular methods of carving jade in China. The advantage of this machine is that it can make intricate jade designs between a day or a week compared to years using traditional methods. However, it is limited to the shape of the jade and performs well on jade that has been prepared as a slate. Much more complicated 3D designs require manual carving to come into play along with CNC methods. Many other artistic flairs such as jade chain carving cannot be achieved with the CNC machine.
3D scanning and auto carving jade is a popular method to create replicated jade items. For example, one could let a 3D scanning device scan an object such as a one of a kind jade golden toad. The scan can be taken to the CNC machine which will then be given a program to be able to replicate the golden toad. Due to the unique color variations and patterns for each piece of jade, it will not look exactly the same, but the shape will match exactly to the original.
At Dahlia, we specialize mostly in jadeite jade. All of our carved jade pendants and jade pieces are made of authentic Grade A jade. If our natural jade is not to your liking, free returns and exchanges are guaranteed!
Curious for more information on jade? Interested in purchasing your own jadeite jade jewelry? Visit us at https://www.dahliany.com/collections/jade
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Read on to the next post to learn more about other jade qualities.
- Angela Hu
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Jade Symbolism - Why People Wear Jade and It's Significance
Since ancient China (770 BC), jade has been regarded as the most precious stone by royalty and elites. It symbolizes purity and moral integrity, while many also believe in the stone’s healing and protective qualities, as it is said to ward off bad spirits and support loving heart energy.
Throughout more than 3000 years of history, the craftsmanship and carving skills of master artisans have been constantly been honed and improved to create not only masterpieces, but also form many of the symbols which have its own unique story and blessing behind it. These wearable works of art become good luck charms that the owner will greatly cherish for their entire life or eventually pass down to his/her children.
In Chinese culture, jade jewelry is usually carved into different designs. Each carving holds significant meaning behind it to reflect the thousand-year-old tradition of jade jewelry design. The examples below are some popular symbolism commonly found in jade jewelry. Although each individual one has its own specific meaning, jades are meant to be good luck charms overall.
The jade coin or “ping an kou” (平安口) in Chinese, is a classic jade design. Reminiscent of a traditional Chinese coin, it grants safety, harmony, and fortune to its wearers.
The calabash, also known as a bottle gourd, has multiple associations with happiness, good fortune, and protection. The Chinese name for the calabash is “hulu” (葫芦). The first character “hu” is the homophone for the word “to protect” and the word for “blessing”. The word “hulu” sounds like “fulu” which means happiness, blessing and good fortune. This lucky connotation comes from ancient times when calabashes were tied onto the back of small children during water crossings to protect them from falling in. It is also a popular charm to ward off evil spirits.
A blessing melon or “Fu Gua” in Chinese is a simple jade pendant that represent rolling in abundance. The roundness of the melon conveys the notions of rolling in the wealth, abundance of children and blessing for many generations. This traditional Chinese fertility charm will ensure bountiful harvests.
Guan Gong is the Chinese God of War. He is well known for being the most powerful and righteous general. A jade piece depicting Guan Gong would be a perfect gift for men and businesspeople because this deity is famous for his loyalty and trustworthiness.
Chinese Zodiac Signs consists of a 12-year cycle, each year is named after a different animal. Many Chinese believe that each animal embody the panoply of human nature. It determines that person's personality traits, physical and mental attributes and degree of success and happiness throughout his/her lifetime.
Buddha symbolizes good fortune, peace, and harmony. Many elders and children wear buddha jade jewelry, but it is suitable for anyone.
Guan Yin is known as the Maternal Goddess and the Protector of Children. She is associated with compassion. Jewelry depicting Guan Yin suit both men and women, but some Chinese say men wear Guan Yin while ladies wear Buddha jewelry.
A Pi Xiu is an ancient Chinese mythological creature. Resembling a dragon, a Pi Xiu is a symbol of fortune and a powerful protector to its master. It is best suited for businesspeople and individuals who seek refuge from evil supernatural forces.
The bamboo has been idolized by Chinese poets for years. It symbolizes youth, longevity, modesty, and righteousness. The sections or nodes on the bamboo represents continuous success in study and career. It most fitting for students and people in the workforce wishing for job advancement.
Green Bean/Snap Bean:
The green bean represents peace and good health throughout the seasons. It conveys a sense of longevity and embraces a bountiful harvest with anticipation of new life for the next year. It befits elders and women the most.
Fun Facts About Jade:
- In gemstone therapy, it is said that jade “stimulates creativity and mental agility on one hand, while also having a balancing effect.” The traditional and modern are combined harmoniously in jade to symbolize energy and beauty.
- In China, “yu” is the Chinese word for jade. It’s a generic term for both Nephrite and Jadeite.
- Jadeite and Nephrite deposits can be found all around the world including China, New Zealand and Russia. Dark green jade can also be found in Western Canada which gives it its nickname, Canada jade. Although jades are not exclusive to one region, the best stones come from Burma, now known as Myanmar.
- In general, the value of jade is determined according to its color, the intensity of that color, the vivacity and texture, and its clarity and transparency.
- Moh’s Scale Hardness: 6.5 – 7
- Colors: Most common colors are shades of green, lavender, and white. However, red, yellow, and black jades also exist.
- Dahlia NY
Jade Authenticity - How can you tell if Jade is Real?
How do you tell if Jade is Real?
Honestly, without being a jade expert or having years of experience evaluating jade, it is a difficult and complicated task. The good news is, we have an easy solution for you.
Unlike most jade retailers, each piece of jade jewelry purchased from Dahlia will come with its very own certificate of authenticity. This validates and proves that our jade is 100% genuine grade A jadeite jade, something that is often in question when shopping for jade. These certifications are a unique identifier because not one jade is alike, so they are assigned a specific certificate number and a picture of your jade will be on the certificate as well. Below is an example of our certificate and what will come with your order.
We invest the extra time and resources to have our jade jewelry certified by China’s National Gemstone Testing Center (NGTC) so that our customers can buy our jade with confidence. The NGTC is the highest authority for certifying jade gemstones, comparable to the GIA for diamonds in the United States. The NGTC certifications are acknowledged internationally by ILAC-MRA and CNAS and national by CMA.
Verifying and Using the Jade Certification
Scan QR code: The best and easiest way to verify the information of the certificate is by scanning the QR code with the camera on your smart phone. See the image below.
Check Online: The second way to verify is to check online. Printed on the certificate is the website where one can enter information to verify jade, or click here: http://gtzy123.com. Note: you may have to click "translate" so that your browser translates the site from Chinese to English. Once you're there, navigate to the Certificate Query section and enter your Certificate ID & Total Mass.
If done correctly, your results will look like the image below.
5 Quick Ways to Check if Jade is Real or Not
Besides buying a certified piece of jade, here are 5 quick ways to test if your jade is real or not.
- Look for Air Bubbles – When stones are dyed, it makes the stones weaker and more brittle, so it is injected with polymers to make the stones stronger again. Sometimes, this will leave tiny air bubbles in the stone and that is a tell tale sign of a fake or altered jade.
- Verify Color – Natural jade should have variations of color within the stone and it should be consistent throughout. If the stone is too bright, too smooth, and too vivid, it is most likely dyed and chemically enhanced.
- Temperature Check – Real jade should has a natural coolness to it. For this test, hold the stone tightly in your hand for 1-2 min to warm it up. If the stone is still cool, it’s real, but if it warms up and is no longer cool, it is probably a fake! (Tip: You can also put the stone to your face if it's easier)
- Scratch Test – Real jade is very hard and quite dense so it shouldn’t be easy to scratch. Do a scratch test with your fingernails or pin by lightly rubbing against the surface. If it leaves a mark and easily scratches, it’s likely that the jade is fake.
- Sound Test for Density – For this test, you’ll need a piece of jade that you know is real. Tap the suspected jade against the real piece of jade several times and listen carefully for the sound. If the jade is real, it will make a deep, resonate sound, however, if it sounds like two plastic beads being tapped together, the jade is probably fake.
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Jade Quality - What is the highest quality jade?
Grade A, B, and C Jadeite Jade
To help determine the quality of jadeite jade, experts have come up with a grading scale for evaluating a piece of jade. Jadeite jade can be Grade A, B, or C, while this scale is typically not used for grading nephrite.
Grade A means that the jade is completely natural with absolutely zero treatment. This is the highest quality jadeite there is.
Grade B means that it has been treated by being bleached or soaked in hydrochloric/sulfuric acid. This is done to clean the inside of impurities and inferior color.
Grade C jade has gone through all the treatments mentioned for Grade B but is also dyed to improve the color or consistency of the color. This is detrimental to the jade as it weakens its structure and could result in further treatment like injecting it with polymers to make it stronger again.
At Dahlia, we only offer Grade A Jadeite Jade, so you can buy with confidence. When buying grades B or C, you may experience fading of color or even skin irritation due to the chemicals used to treat the jade.
5 Main Qualities of Jade
The grade that a piece of jade receives is a great starting point for evaluating jade but are many other factors that come into play. Beyond its grade, there are 5 main qualities that factor into the quality as well.
Texture is the most important factor of jade. The texture inside jadeite can be seen with the naked eye since the particles are noticeable. However, measuring the particle size will require industry tools. In general, the smaller the particles, the better the jadeite due to its smoother texture and higher luster.
Transparency refers to how easy light can pass through the jade. Jadeite with high transparency would be almost water-like jelly while opaque jades would not be clear at all. Higher transparency jades are worth more than their cloudy counterparts.
Naturally formed jade will have inclusions, such as cracks or spots, in its composition. It is very rare to find one with nearly no blemishes inside. In addition, jade jewelry is prone to cracking if mistreated. Even a slight bump against a hard surface may cause a microscopic crack inside the gemstone. In Chinese culture, many believe that jades have an aura that protects their wearer from harm. A crack on the jade will mean that the piece of jewelry has successfully fulfilled their purpose as a good luck charm. After that, one must obtain a new jade for continuous good fortune.
Although color is the first noticeable factor, it is NOT the most important factor. Jadeite can come in many different hues. What should be taken in consideration is the vibrancy and rarity of the color. For example, jades are typically green, but the rarest jade color is Imperial Green. This green is extremely vibrant and rarely found in nature.
Craftsmanship is a great indicator of value because the better the jade, the higher quality craftsmanship it will have. Many artisans would not spend their time crafting a masterpiece from poor quality jade due to its intrinsic value of being too low. The general rule of thumb is, if the craftsmanship is more detailed and finer, it is more valuable.
To learn how to tell if jade is real or not, click here
- Dahlia NY